The True Story That Inspired House Of The Dragon: It’s no secret that George R.R. Martin has a deep interest in the past. To create such a compelling work of fantasy, the author must have some familiarity with real-world events. Martin has drawn significantly on historical sources for his own immortal series of novels, A Song of Ice and Fire.
Thus, much was said about the real-life events that inspired Game of Thrones when it first appeared on our screens, and this is, of course, no different with the latest smash series for HBO in the franchise, House of the Dragon.
But Martin was also known to employ his sources of inspiration in less obvious ways. There are, of course, clear connections to be drawn, as we will see the man himself saying in a minute, but it’s wonderful to understand how these historical events inspired the novels and shows we know and love, beyond just the names of fights and character correlations.
We don’t have to go too far out of our way from reality to understand the point these works are trying to make in the realm of fantasy, which is often a reflection on our own world and culture.
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The War of The Roses
These were a series of confrontations between two of England’s principal aristocratic houses, York and Lancaster. The names Stark and Lannister sound similar because they are based on real-life families, and the conflict between them served as inspiration for the conflict depicted in the HBO series Game of Thrones. Martin has been quite clear that the War of the Roses is simply a loose inspiration for Game of Thrones.
When it came to the throne of England, the houses of York and Lancaster fought tooth and nail for power, while in Westeros, the Starks sought to make the North independent and the Lannisters wanted to defeat them and maintain the Iron Throne for themselves.
Both the House of York and the House of Lancaster can trace their lineage back to King Edward III of the Plantagenet dynasty (reigning from 1327–1377). The war got its name because the Yorks’ flags had white roses and the Lancasters’ banners included red roses, both symbols of the rival families.
The war lasted 30 years, from 1455 to 1485, and followed the disastrous Hundred Years’ War between England and France. This war, notwithstanding Henry V’s conquest of territory in continental Europe, left England reeling from severe social and economic upheaval. Wars that continued during the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III began when his son, Henry VI, lost those lands and was severely questioned by the English lords.
The Anarchy occurred long before the War of the Roses, just as House of the Dragon is set centuries before Game of Thrones. However, the modern idea of anarchism has nothing to do with this fight, despite the name.
Martin based the first in a string of civil wars fought by House Targaryen, the Dance of the Dragons, on the Anarchy, which occurred in England in the 12th century. This uprising was waged between King Henry I’s daughter and rightful heir Matilda and his nephew and next-of-kin Stephen of Blois.
Matilda’s story is somewhat similar to that of Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy), in that she was named heir by her father but was rejected by the English nobles. The lords of Westeros have been shown kowtowing to Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon, but there is also an express preference for young Prince Aegon II to ascend the throne, thus Rhaenyra’s favour is not likely to persist.
The barons’ rejection of Matilda sparked a war that lasted for over a decade, during which the self-proclaimed rulers were preoccupied with fighting rather than ruling, hence the term “anarchy,” which refers to the absence of centralised authority. The two sides would eventually tyre of fighting each other and reach an agreement that would see them both ascend to the throne. This outcome is reminiscent of the Dance of the Dragons.
Image Source: nationalworld
The Anarchy provided the ideal backdrop for the development of a strong female protagonist who was not only ahead of her time in terms of her claim to the Iron Throne, but also in almost every other respect. We don’t know much about Matilda, but like Rhaenyra, she was denied the throne because of her gender.
On the SDCC panel for House of the Dragon, Martin said, “I don’t think Westeros is particularly more anti-woman or more misogynistic than real life and what we call history.” The Anarchy was just one of many such examples. Therefore, it is always beneficial to be familiar with our history, as it can serve as the basis for much more than just fantastical productions on television.
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