The Historical Inspiration for the Red Wedding of ‘Game of Thrones’
By Ross Crawford
Published Online (2013)
Excerpt: Every writer needs some inspiration and Martin is spoiled for choice in the blood-soaked annals of West European history. Many have observed how closely the War of the Five Kings in Game of Thrones resembles the War of the Roses in fifteenth-century England. Likewise, the cloak-and-dagger politics of King’s Landing could easily be mistaken for almost any medieval European court. To find the inspiration for the Red Wedding, undoubtedly one of the most shocking events of the series to date, Martin looked to medieval Scotland and the infamous ‘Black Dinner’ of 1440.
In the early fifteenth century, during the early reign of King James II, Clan Douglas were one of the most powerful regional landlords in Lowland Scotland. Some of their local rivals, like Clan Crichton, felt they were simply too strong and capable of upsetting the delicate power-balance within Scotland. The sixteenth-century Scottish historians, George Buchanan and Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, argued the chief of Clan Douglas, William, was haughty, over-ambitious and the cause of all strife in the kingdom at this point. Yet this seems highly unlikely, as in 1440 William was a young man of only sixteen-years of age, and he had barely been involved in any serious politics.
Nevertheless, for some, the Clan Douglas still constituted a serious threat. After all, King James II was still a minor of only ten-years of age, more figurehead than leader. A young, influential lord such as William Douglas could easily have obtained control of King and council in time. Therefore, Clan Crichton sought to break the power-base of the Douglases. With the help of Alexander Livingston of Callendar and others hidden behind-the-scenes, they concocted a plan.