As always reported, George R. R. Martin is a fan of what he calls popular history and uses real elements to inspire his complex plot of the Game of Thrones franchise. To tell the story that became the series, the writer cited the conflict of the Wars of the Roses as a source. This stretch of British history was marked in pop culture by the plays of William Shakespeare, who traced the origin of the problem as the dispute in the order of succession. Always the succession…
Basically, the elements that are in GOT from that period are the families fighting for the throne, with their mottos and symbols, alternating who was with the crown. The Wars of the Roses, so called because House York used the white rose as a banner and the Lancasters a red rose, ended with the defeat of King Richard III – a York – and the rise of Henry VII – a Tudor, fighting for the Lancasters. – to the throne. As George explains, he doesn’t retell the story but rather borrows the dramatic element that sparked the conflict. For example, for the Targaryens, he clearly took Cleopatra‘s Ptolemy family as a base.
It would be no different for House of the Dragon, where he returns to using medieval British history as a source, more specifically with a fascinating passage known as The Anarchy. Here I open parentheses to point out that, in a simplistic summary, it is the junction point of Vikings, Vikings-Valhalla, and Game of Thrones, all thanks to the fascinating female presence of Empress Matilda, the woman who would have been the first British queen and one of the fiercest of all time.
The elements of the trajectory that the writer used from this historical period were two: the succession order questioned to avoid the rise of a woman and the civil war that aroused for this reason. Other details will also be in the series, as we can see.
Who was Matilda?
Granddaughter of William the Conqueror and daughter of Henry I of England, Matilda entered the line of succession when her eldest brother William was drowned in an event known as the White Ship disaster in 1120. Three hundred people were aboard the vessel that sank with only one survivor, who was not the prince. With no other sons, Henry I made his daughter his successor. Naturally, the choice of Henry I was not well-received because even though she was the rightful heir to the throne, Matilda was a woman who would potentially be England’s first (ever) queen. The aristocracy was firm in the belief that her gender made her incapable of shouldering the responsibility of the title. But they were quiet and her cousin, Stephen, supported her. Or so it seemed.
Matilda lived abroad most of her life as she was married when she was just 8 years old to an antagonist of the British, Henry V, of the Holy Roman Empire. She was widowed at age 23 and her father remarried her, this time to Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou and she lived in Normandy. When her father died in 1135, to Matilda’s surprise, her cousin Stephen switched sides. He claimed that his uncle had changed his mind on his deathbed, recognizing him as his successor to the throne in her place. So he was the new King and she could swallow the change. The nobles supported Stephen and life would follow the “normal” course.
They underestimated Matilda.
Indignantly, she refused to calmly accept and began a fight for the crown. The civil war lasted 19 years and the period became known as “The Anarchy”, with siege battles during which supporters of both sides took turns to besiege each other’s strongholds yielding stories of incredible battles.
Stephen was captured after he was defeated at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141 but was released in exchange for prisoner Robert, Earl of Gloucester, Matilda’s trusted man. Finally, with the crown, Matilda’s time on the throne was brief, as a rebellion led by Stephen forced her to flee London and her cousin regained the crown.
Matilda was besieged at Oxford Castle during the winter of 1142 in a siege lasting 3 months. Their escape is one of the greatest in English history: on a freezing December night, Matilda wrapped herself in a white cloak and snuck through enemy lines disguised against the thick blizzard around her. Nobody saw her. Then, using a pair of ice skates, he fled across the frozen River Thames to the safety of Wallingford Castle.
Naturally, with history having been written by men, Matilda became known as a proud and arrogant woman, bossy and spoiled. She was unpopular among her subjects, but she did not give up her rights. On the death of the Earl of Gloucester in 1148, Matilda returned to France and from there, in 1153, she signed a peace treaty with her cousin, establishing that Stephen would be king until he died, but that afterward the crown would go to her son, Henry II. Interestingly, less than a year later Stephen kicked off and Henry II started the line of Plantagenet kings, a lineage that would end precisely in the Wars of the Roses. Technically Matilda didn’t win the battles, but she undoubtedly won the war. She lived until 1167, enjoying more than 10 years of her son’s reign before she died. Of course, the life of Henry II and his lineage is full of betrayals, wars, and bloodshed, but we’ve already seen it in Games of Thrones.
George R. R. Martin looked to Matilda to create the story of Rhaenyra Targaryen, who will fight for the throne with her half-brother, Aegon I. The sibling conflict will be determined from episode 6, but developed in the next seasons. It promises to be amazing.