10 History Books ‘Game of Thrones’ Fans Must Read Because The Red Wedding Was Based On A Real Event


Whether you’re a TV fan waiting for season eight or a long-suffering book fan still hoping that The Winds of Winter will be released at some point before the end of linear time, chances are you will miss the game of thrones universe right now. Of course, if you miss dragons, prophecies, and big, bad snow zombies, there are plenty of fantastic books you can read in the meantime. Maester George RR Martin himself has been quite candid about the influence of TH White, JRR Tolkien and Robert Jordan. But let’s say you’re not in the mood for another fantasy epic (or you’ve already read them all, and even your D&D group is begging it’s up to you to try another genre). If you miss intriguing princes and queens and convoluted plots to steal the throne from illegitimate suitors, then you might actually enjoy some of these real-world history books.

After all, it’s no secret that GRRM stole all of its major plot points from the history books. The fight for the Iron Throne is not so loosely based on the English Wars of the Roses. Characters like Brienne of Tarth and Tyrion Lannister are inspired by historical figures like Joan of Arc and Richard III. And yes, even the Red Wedding and the Wall have their precedents in English history (medieval England got pretty wild, y’all). Here are some history books that will fill you in on all the disturbing real-life stories that inspired game of thrones:

“War of the Roses” by Alison Weir

If you enjoy reading about the Lannisters and Starks fighting for the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, you’ll probably enjoy reading about the Lancasters and Yorks fighting for the Seven Kingdoms of England. Alison Weir turns the historic War of the Roses into a thrill ride, filled with daring intrigue, sudden betrayals and many kings and queens mean to each other.

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‘Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses’ by Sarah Gristwood

The War of the Roses was fought by intelligent and politically savvy women just as much as it was fought by knights on the battlefield. blood sisters tells the fascinating story of the women who formed the Tudor dynasty, from ambitious mothers to tragic budding queens and every lady in between.

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Joan of Arc: A Story by Helen Castor

Brienne of Tarth is quite clearly based on Joan of Arc, the French peasant girl who became a warrior and led her army to victory in the early 1400s. Joan of Arc: a story delves into the fascinating true story of the Maid of Orléans, and how she managed to learn the art of war, save France, and to be burned at the stake as a heretic before his 20th birthday.

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‘The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family’ by Susan Higginbotham

Elizabeth Woodville was a beautiful, poor widow when she was taken away by Edward IV, dragging her entire family into the heart of the Wars of the Roses. The Woodvilles soon found themselves at the center of bloody intrigue, romance, accusations of witchcraft, and a bitter battle for control of the Seven Kingdoms (of England).

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‘Glencoe: The Infamous Massacre 1692’ by John Sadler

Yes, the Red Wedding was based on an actual massacre in Scottish history (it’s based on two actual massacres, really, but this one is the bloodiest). Glencoe: the infamous massacre 1692 tells the story of how the Clan Campbell brutally murdered the MacDonalds under the guise of hospitality, in all of its bloody and politically tense history.

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‘She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth’ by Helen Castor

Yes, there were powerful queens before Elizabeth! Cersei and Margaery and Arianne and Daenerys aren’t just fantasy characters, they’re based on extremely fierce historical ladies. Like Mathilde, granddaughter of William the Conqueror, who came dangerously close to securing the crown. Or patron of the arts and army chief Eleanor of Aquitaine. Or the terrifying helicopter mother Margaret of Anjou, who tore the country apart to ensure her sweet, murderous son would be king, Lannister style.

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“The Wall: Rome’s Greatest Frontier” by Alistair Moffat

Maybe Hadrian’s Wall wasn’t made of ice or infested with zombies. But there was a real wall of life that marked the northern border of Roman England, and it was occupied by men who were not allowed to hold their own land. The wall tells the story of this ambitious 73-mile monument, and the Romans and Britons who built it, guarded it and fought against it.

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“The Cousin Women’s War: The Duchess, Queen, and King’s Mother” by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin, and Michael K. Jones

If you are a Martin fan, you have to get on the Philippa Gregory train. Like his historical novels, The Women of the Cousin War delves into the human drama behind the War of the Roses. In particular, this book focuses on the “witch” Jacquetta, the commoner Elizabeth who married a king for love, and the neglected matriarch Margaret, who raised her son to be king.

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‘The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How Genghis Khan’s Daughters Saved His Empire’ by Jack Weatherford

From time to time, Martin is inspired by a story that not British. So if you can’t get enough of Dany as Khaleesi on the Dothraki Sea then check it out The Secret History of Mongol Queens. The Dothraki are loosely based on the Mongol Empire, except the real Mongol Empire had many more women in power than Martin’s fictional version. Genghis Khan’s daughters and daughters-in-law took over his conquests and ruled as queens, fostering trade and education in the world’s first truly international empire.

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“The Princes in the Tower” by Alison Weir

Historians have been trying to unravel the mystery of the Tower Princes for over five centuries now, and we still don’t have a consensus. Much like little Bran and Rickon Stark, the two York boys would have been murdered…but they might have survived. And just like Tyrion Lannister, their uncle, the “monstrous” Richard III, was blamed for their apparent deaths. What really happened? Will we ever get to the truth? Read The Princes in the Tower if you are looking for answers.

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