House of the Dragon: The Real History Behind the Game of Thrones Prequel

From there, the story diverges from history as new characters are introduced and the situation unfolds in its own way – not to mention the Targaryens have dragons, something England’s Norman rulers were sorely lacking! Henry I of England was a widower when his son died, which enabled him to re-marry in the hope of conceiving another male heir. However, it didn’t happen, divorce (as King Henry VIII would find out many years later) was extremely difficult, and by the time he had the barons swear their oaths to Matilda, he knew she was his only surviving legitimate child.

In House of the Dragon, on the other hand, we see Viserys remarry after making his lords swear their oath to Rhaenyra. He then has a legitimate male son, Aegon, with his new wife, Alicent Hightower. This changes the situation completely, as by the rules of male primogeniture, his eldest legitimate son would be expected to be his heir. That’s why Henry VIII’s youngest child, Edward, became king before either of his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. The conflict becomes a complicated clash of values – what means more, keeping an oath or sticking to tradition? – as well as a clash of personalities.

Can We Make Guesses About House of the Dragon Based On Medieval History?

The short answer to that question is, of course, “no”. The series is fantasy and is not exactly following historical events.

But we suspect the history of these early English civil wars will continue to influence the tone of the series. The results of Stephen and Matilda’s bitter conflict included suffering for the people of England caught in the middle and forced to fight on one side or the other, years of chaos, religious tensions (Stephen had support from one of the two competing Popes for his claim to the throne in 1135), and a legacy of inter-family rivalry that wouldn’t stop with Henry II and the next generation. Not for nothing was this period called “the Anarchy”. And of course, the key conflict revolves around the issue of powerful men refusing to accept a woman as their ruler.

Personality also plays a key role, as it did in medieval history. Matilda was never crowned as Queen of England because she annoyed the people of London so much her coronation didn’t go ahead, while Stephen was a good military leader but not always so good at forming policy. In the confrontations between the lords of Westeros surrounding Viserys’s succession, it’s safe to say the known personalities of Daemon, Aegon, and Rhaenyra will probably be a factor.

There are plenty of colorful incidents from this period of English history that might make their way into the show as well. Matilda, for example, once escaped from captivity in Oxford Tower and ran away across the frozen River Thames. Stephen was also captured at one point, after fighting on with a broken battle ax, and was eventually recovered in a prisoner exchange organized by his wife. Presumably, as he did with the Red Wedding, Martin will continue to plunder history for exciting bits and pieces to put into his stories, whichever characters he gives them to. We’re excited to find out how he uses the rich material of medieval history for his stories – and how he changes it. 

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