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While the clans celebrated, drank to their heart’s desire, and enjoyed a break from the never-ending war, they failed to recognize the true plan that was being put into action. Catelyn and Robb Stark enjoyed the Frey’s hospitality which eventually turned into a graveyard for their troops and allies. Blood was spilled, throats were slit and revenge for betrayal clung to the air in the massive wedding hall.

I don’t even have to name the episode, and the fans of Game of Thrones already know what I’m talking about. The King in the North along with his wife, unborn child, and mother are murdered heartlessly to the tune of The Rains of Castamere, to show the Lannisters always pay their debt.

This phase in the show stands as a true testament to Tywin Lannister’s unparalleled cunning and dominance. Had his own son Tyrion not murdered him, Tywin would have gone on to rule Westeros with an iron fist. As the commander of the army and Lord of House Lannister, Tywin could see the bigger picture and deal with threats from all directions.

While the Red Wedding became a landmark event in turning the tides at a crucial time in the war in the story, George R.R. Martin is not solely responsible for the surprise twist.

Black Dinner: A True Tragedy

Back in the 1430s in the kingdom of Scotland, James II was crowned King at the tender age of 6. This was after his father, King James I was brutally assassinated and his young child had to be groomed for command from a very young age. A 6-year-old could not be a true king, so he had regents in place to guide him and make important decisions.

The 5th Earl of Douglas Archibald Douglas headed the Scottish government as lieutenant-general of the realm and was given the regency for King James II. His dynasty was a force to be reckoned with as they controlled most estates. The rivals shivered in their boots, given the power and influence of the Douglas clan. However, these cowardly rivals saw a chance to dismantle the Douglas dynasty after Archibald passed away. The regency then came to be shared between William Crichton, 1st Lord Crichton and Lord Chancellor of Scotland, Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar, and James Douglas, Earl of Avondale.

Capitalizing on this opportunity, the regents decided to overthrow the Douglas family and get them annexed at the earliest. In what came to be known as the Black Dinner of Scotland, the regents invited young sons of Archibald, 16-year-old William Douglas, 6th Earl of Douglas, and his younger brother to dine with the young king at Edinburgh Castle on a dark late November evening in 1440. After placing a bull’s head on the table, marking their impending deaths, the two young guests were taken outside and killed under the pretense of treachery.

King James II kept pleading with the regents to stop the torture and let them go, but his voice remained unheard. Eventually, when the King came of age to rule Scotland, he recognized the monopoly held by the Douglas family in both lands and positions of power. Ultimately, King James II repeated the ghastly event as he invited the 8th Earl of Douglas to dinner with a promise of hospitality and murdered him on false charges.

An Inspired Event in Game of Thrones

The author of A Song of Ice and Fire George R.R. Martin dug deep to get inspiration for some of his characters and events that made the books and the subsequent HBO show great. Black Dinner from Scotland went on to become the basis for the cruel Red Wedding in the Riverlands. The Freys invited the Starks to participate in the festivities as Lord Edmure married one of Frey’s daughters. While the initial promise of the alliance was with the Starks, the Freys had to compromise and ally with the Tullys as Robb Stark married for love.

Walder Frey did not take this betrayal lightly and was spurred on by the Lannisters and the Boltons. Similar to how the regents partnered and cracked the dominance of the Douglas clan by murdering the young Earl and his brother, the three houses sided against the Starks to break their power in the North.

The finale of season 3 of Game of Thrones put many actions and motives into perspective. Backstabbing, betrayals, and bloodshed marked the end of the gruesome season with more menacing events to follow. Lannisters neutralized the threat before the army even reached King’s Landing while gaining two more allies in the burgeoning war. Tywin Lannister empowered Lord Bolton to squash House Stark and take control of the expansive North. From fuelling people’s ambitions to playing with lives as pawns in the game of chess, Tywin was the one true player in the Game of Thrones.

Despite being inspired by a historical event, the Red Wedding is incredibly powerful in giving viewers a glimpse into the shifting alliances and ever-evolving ambitions of the characters in the show. There are no friends or foes in the game of achieving the Iron Throne, only alliances that are upheld only till they are useful and promises that are broken as easily as twigs on a branch.

More Blasts from the Past in Game of Thrones

Seeing the vicious, power-thirsty characters of Game of Thrones, we feel thankful that it all existed in a fictional universe. As much as a visionary and an incredible world-builder he was, George R.R. Martin couldn’t resist influences from past events to seep into his work A Song of Ice and Fire. With that said, the tragic Red Wedding is not the only facet of the book and subsequent show to be inspired by a historical event.

It is said that even the houses in the show are drawn from real families who fought for power and exchanged alliances like currency. Houses York and Lancaster have served as the basis for Houses Stark and Lannister in Game of Thrones respectively. The War of the Roses, a bloody battle to consolidate dominance of the British kingdom may elude history textbooks, but true history buffs know what we are talking about. Similar to the War of the Five Kings in the HBO show, the historical war was fought to claim the British throne.

Another inspiration for the war that shrouded the fate of Westeros from all directions was the Roman empire at a time when several contestants rose in defiance to claim the throne. As you can all guess, it led to a severe civil war, claiming hundreds of lives. The mighty Romans have their fair share of history accounted for, including the battle arenas where Daenerys faces an attack by the Sons of the Harpy. Just replace the dagger-wielding hooligans with all geared-up gladiators, and you have a complete scene straight out of a Roman history textbook.

Speaking of Daenerys or Khaleesi, as she is rightfully called, we are reminded of the ferocious and rugged Dothrakis. With a culture of their own, away from ordinary civilization, the horde of wild men and women was not solely birthed by GRRM’s exceptional mind. In fact, the horse-riding fierce Mongols were the true clan on which the characters were based. While the names don’t sound eerily similar, the actions and bravado of Khal Drogo resemble the Mongolian emperor Genghis Khan. Don’t believe us? Check out how the great Genghis Khan died. Quick answer: an infected wound. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

We wish all history lessons could be as intriguing as every episode of the show. Reading about The Siege of Constantinople was a snoozefest, but watching the Battle of the Blackwater Bay was possibly the most exciting way we could spend an hour. Yet, the two events share more similarities than GRRM might like to admit. The siege was defeated by Greek fire, quite close to the wildfire that burned the Baratheon fleet and ensured the Lannisters’ victory. Nonetheless, dubious tricks and double-crossing enemies were present on both sides of the battle.

This eye-opening insight into the history that inspired one of people’s favorite shows just goes on to show how people are intrinsically similar. History might not always repeat itself but no better teacher in the world can tell us which mistakes are not meant to be repeated. Next time you watch an episode of Game of Thrones, try to draw a parallel with an event that you accidentally paid attention to in your history lesson. Who knows, you might find another nod to history in the mysterious world of Westeros and its twisted ambitions.

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