The best fantasy has a grain of truth to it, and Game of Thrones is no exception. George R.R. Martin has repeatedly said that parts of the series were loosely inspired by the English War of the Roses in the 15th century, but that’s the farthest he’ll go in linking anything in his imaginary Seven Kingdoms to real-life history.
But we noticed that some of the characters have a lot in common with some actual historical figures, especially the women. Here are 5 Game of Thrones characters that have an uncanny resemblance to women who actually lived.
(Please note that any comparisons here are made with the first four seasons of the HBO show, not the books)
1) Margaret of Anjou / Cersei Lannister
Cersei Lannister and Margaret of Anjou probably would have been total frenemies. Both were young girls married off to create a political alliance: Cersei’s marriage to Robert Baratheon united House Lannister and House Baratheon, while Margaret’s marriage to Henry VI made peace between England and France. Both ruled when their husbands couldn’t: Cersei ruled behind the scenes in King’s Landing while Robert was out hunting and sleeping with other women, and Margaret ruled England when Henry VI went nuts. Both battled rumors about the legitimacy of their children: many speculated (rightly) that Cersei’s children were Jamie’s, and others spread rumors that Margaret’s son Edward wasn’t her husband’s (because Henry was insane around the time of Edward’s conception.) Both had violent sons (Joffrey is a noted sadist, and Edward was said to “talk of nothing but cutting off heads and making war,”) and both lost their sons in horrible ways: Cersei’s son Joffrey was poisoned at the Purple Wedding, and Margaret’s son was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury (possibly even beheaded.)
The eeriest similarity? Cersei is a Lannister, Margaret was a Lancaster.
2) Anne Boleyn/Talisa Stark
Master home-wreckers Talisa Stark and Anne Boleyn broke up marriages that broke up empires. Robb Stark was supposed to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters in exchange for his loyalty, but broke his promise to marry Talisa for love, which led to the murders of Robb, Talisa, and Lady Catelyn Stark at the Red Wedding. Anne Boleyn seduced Henry VIII while he was still married to Catherine of Aragon, so he declared England independent from the Catholic Church in order to get his marriage annulled. The fights over whether England was Catholic or Protestant led to centuries of bloodshed.
3) Queen Mary / Melisandre
Melisandre is super hot and Queen Mary I was super not, but they both love burning people who disagree with their religion. In Season 4, Melisandre burned three members of Stannis’s household for refusing to destroy their idols of gods other than the Lord of Light. In the 1550s, “Bloody Mary” burned hundreds of English Protestants for not converting to Catholicism. They also would have made great birth partners; Melisandre gave birth to a creepy murderous shadow-demon, while Bloody Mary famously had a false pregnancy that one Venetian ambassador said was more likely to “end in wind than anything else.”
4) Queen Elizabeth I / Daenerys Targaryen
Daenerys Targaryen and Queen Elizabeth I were both well-armed, power-hungry single ladies. Daenerys was once married to Khal Drogo, but after his death became a decidedly single ruler. Queen Elizabeth was known as the “Virgin Queen,” but was almost certainly not a virgin. Both were extremely well-armed (with dragons and a Navy, respectively) and both decided not to marry in order to preserve and expand their power: Daenerys wants to re-take the Iron Throne, Elizabeth wanted to expand English influence (and the first English colony in America, Virginia, was named for the Virgin Queen.) And both had to punish a close advisor who betrayed them: Daenerys banished Jorah Mormont after she found he had originally been spying on her, and Elizabeth executed her close advisor Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, after he tried to stage a rebellion.
5) Joan of Arc / Brienne of Tarth
Brienne of Tarth and Joan of Arc share substance and style: they’re both obsessively loyal, and they both know how to rock a suit of armor. Brienne swore her sword first to Renly Baratheon, then to Catelyn Stark, and finally to Jamie Lannister– she’s so devoted, she even named her sword “Oathkeeper.” Joan of Arc was “called by angels” to dedicate her life to the Dauphin, the uncrowned Charles VII of France, and eventually helped him win the Siege of Orleans before the British burned her at the stake for heresy. Both wore armor, and both had bad tempers.
But it’s not just the Game of Thrones women who might have been inspired by real historical figures.
1) Joffrey / Caligula
King Joffrey resembles Roman Emperor Caligula so much, they even have the same haircut. Both boy-kings loved watching pain and torture, and both staged elaborate spectacles while their people starved. Both had unusually ambitious mothers: Cersei understands the “game of thrones” better than most, while Caligula’s mother Agrippa the Elder fought to have him inherit the throne. And both were assassinated young for being such evil brats.
2) Robert Baratheon / Henry VIII
Both Robert Baratheon and Henry VIII loved hunting and cheating on their wives (see: Anne Boleyn.) But isn’t the physical resemblance enough on this one?