The Real Medieval Civil War that Inspires "House of the Dragon"Breaking News
tags: medieval history, popular culture, television
(Note: This article may contain spoilers for HBO’s “House of the Dragon” — depending on how closely future episodes of the show track with the real history of England.)
During a Comic-Con panel this summer, author George R.R. Martin, whose books inspired the Game of Thrones TV series, spoke about his latest creation to get the HBO treatment. It’s called “House of the Dragon,” and it began airing on Aug. 21.
Like Game of Thrones, which was loosely based on the War of the Roses, Martin said the new series — a prequel to “Game of Thrones” — also derived from real medieval history.
“I get inspiration from history, and then I take elements from history, and I turn it up to 11,” he said. “['House of the Dragon'] is based on an earlier period in history called the Anarchy.”
In fact, the Anarchy was more than a loose inspiration for the series: Several of the main characters are based directly on the key figures from that conflict-ridden period. So let’s dive into the Anarchy — and what it might tell us about where the show is headed.
What was the Anarchy?
The Anarchy was an English civil war of succession. It lasted from 1138 to 1153, but it is rooted in a tragedy that took place nearly two decades earlier.
In 1120, King Henry I lost his only (legitimate) son and heir, William Adelin, to a shipwreck in the English Channel while William traveled from Normandy to England, both under Henry’s control at the time. Henry’s wife had died a few years earlier, so his response was twofold: 1) He named his teenage daughter, the Empress Matilda, his successor — the first woman to be so named — and 2) He married a much younger woman, perhaps hoping to produce another male heir.
An infant son never showed up, so Henry prepared Matilda to take over and repeatedly made nobles and barons swear allegiance to her. Matilda married strategically to a noble from a territory bordering Normandy and had a son of her own, Henry FitzEmpress.
King Henry died in 1135. Matilda, now in her thirties, was away from the seat of power in London, and – surprise! — not all of the nobles were as committed to her coronation as they had claimed. Her cousin, Stephen of Blois, seized the throne with the help of his brother.
Cue civil war.
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