I’ve already posted here, talking about historical series where the annulled role of women in a patriarchal society was one of the factors that caused wars and deaths, in the most varied ways.
In The Last Duel, a true story, a man marries a young woman for financial reasons and greed. After she is raped by his friend the two gentlemen face off to death. Officially for her honor, actually for a reckoning, money, and political position.
In the series of British Queens, such as The White Princess or The Spanish Princess, the marriages of women with older and coarser enemies, but transformed into allies by uniting families.
Of course, men are being men, they can use the right decision to use correctly when they think about the other’s bar. Heredity and succession order apply only to men and the role of a woman in this scenario is absolutely null. In the Tudor drama Becoming Elizabeth the problem of the lack of an heir shows to the man.
In none of these cases did women have a voice or decision-making power. They obeyed, bore the children that men expected, and lived under their laws. They rarely rebelled.
As he was inspired by medieval stories, George R. R. Martin took this particularity to the universe of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, both HBO series. The women of Westeros as far as we have seen remained under the dominion of men until the end of the saga. In fact, it was this complicated relationship that created a lot of problems.
First, in order of airing, Game of Thrones.
The women of Westeros, queens or nobles, did not marry for love. When we first met Catelyn, she loved Ned Stark, but the two were married by a family arrangement and luckily fell in love afterward. Already in the first episode, we discover that another promised union – joining Robert Baratheon with Lyanna Stark – brought down the Targaryens. Much later, in season 6, we confirm that Lyanna had actually fallen in love with and secretly married Rhaegar Targaryen, but her apparent kidnapping instilled in her ex-fiancé a sense of revenge and rebellion against the Targaryens. This forbidden love ended up creating even worse conflicts.
Literally, every marriage on Game of Thrones has been arranged, but by and large, the ones that were genuine – like Robb Stark‘s with Talysa (for which he broke his arrangement to marry a Grey) tragically sealed the couple’s fate. Men generally accepted the loveless union with practicality, but it was certainly worse for women.
After Lyanna’s death, Cersei Lannister married Robert Baratheon, in love with the idea of being Queen. Disappointed with both roles. That of a wife, knowing that her husband had never forgotten his bride, and, even as a Queen, she had no voice in the King’s council. It only served to generate children. Not even widowhood spared her from her “function”. When I think it necessary, Tywin Lannister has again promised her in marriage to forge a political alliance with the Tyrells. Cersei screamed, kicked, and argued, but had to “obey”. Well, actually it solved the issue radically, as we know.
Still in Game of Thrones, Sansa Stark was a woman completely aligned with what was expected of her. She grew up dreaming of a wedding, and when she learned that Robert and Ned had agreed to marry Joffrey Baratheon, making her Queen one day, she didn’t notice the trap she’d fallen into. She contributed to exposing her House and her family to the worst adversities, but she also suffered the bread that the devil kneaded. His dreams, in fact, nightmares, came true. She was married against her will twice, always to enemies who were directly or not involved in the deaths of her father, brother, and mother. She was raped and tortured by Ramsay Bolton. Finished the story alone, but Queen of the North.
Margaery Tyrell was another “used” bride, but unlike the others, she was aligned with her family for every relationship she had, so she had no other expectations than power and prestige. The opposite of what happened to Daenerys Targaryen.
Daenerys was literally sold to a barbarian in exchange for an army. She and Khal Drogo came to understand and love each other, but violence marked their first moments of marriage. A widow, even though she was a Khaleesi and a Targaryen, she lived under the threat of rape and torture. Men wanted her hand in exchange for access and control of dragons, but she knew how to dodge her fate.
Yes, she remarries a stranger to gain political stability in Meereen, but it was when she fell in love with Jon Snow that she lost everything, including her reason. Danny would have no problem marrying Jon, her nephew because that was their family’s tradition, but Jon wasn’t brought up on the same principles and it all went awry.
Now we’re looking at House of the Dragon where marriages don’t fool us, they are largely arranged. Rhaenys and Corlys Velaryon like each other, but use their 12-year-old daughter to try to take back what was meant to be from the Queen that never was. That’s right, Laena Velaryon was offered as a second wife to Viserys I. It was to be expected, but Otto Hightower was turned on long before anyone else in the immense opportunity opened up by the death of Queen Aemma.
Alicent Hightower as a youth is an anxious but obedient girl. Practically prostituted by her father, she acts resigned to what is expected of her. As we saw in the second episode (and the trailer for the third), her seduction of Viserys was demure, precise, and winning. She will be the queen and will bear the sons who – in theory, and soon practice– would supplant Rhaenyra in the succession.
And poor Rhaenyra: she will soon have the same problem as her father by being forced to pick a husband. Her role in the game of thrones has always been a temporary one, something she feels and says is aware of, but still doesn’t understand, not even with Rhaenys‘s kind of harsh warning. The trailers already show the pressure to fulfill her role as a woman to bear children, not necessarily to find a marriage of love.
“Love is the death of duty“. A Targaryen heir will resume centuries later (Maester Aemmon). For now, Westeros weddings are far from sentimental and will still bring out the worst in people.
The sad thing about history – real or fictional – is that it was only in the 21st century that women finally began to fight patriarchy. That’s why the period chosen for House of the Dragon is so relevant. Rhaenyra’s saga of overcoming prejudice against women has just begun. It will be a great journey.