author C.C.Cole's blog

Sunday, September 15, 2013

On The Game of Queens

Richard III "The White Queen"
Stannis Baratheon "Game of Thrones"

With the US release of “The White Queen” cable series, again I find myself behind as usual on literary works and history with my vast hard science educational background.  While I knew about The War of the Roses, I’m embarrassed to admit I asked my liberal arts-educated husband if it took place before or after Henry VIII and what Plantagenet meant.  To top it off, I argued with certainty that Lancaster was the white rose and York was the red rose.  My ignorance was not bliss.

As I’ve watched and enjoyed this series, and swatted the scathing reviews by some, (be comforted, “Fifty Shades of Grey” will be a film soon, if that’s your preference), I do agree it begins focusing on love story between King Edward IV of England and his queen, commoner and widow Elizabeth Woodville.  I agree the production doesn’t place the viewer into the gritty world of 1400s England, but I don’t believe it was meant to.

What hit me right away were characters screaming through the screen and through my kindle as I read the books by Phillipa Gregory (“The White Queen” “The Red Queen” “The Kingmaker’s Daughter”), I see all-to familiar characters from the megahit series “Game of Thrones” and books “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R. R. Martin.  It doesn’t take much of a google search to find out Martin took significant inspiration for his books from the War of the Roses and the work of Phillipa Gregory, amongst many other writers and historic events.

The most obvious character to me was the Earl of Warwick, “The Kingmaker” played by ace actor James Frain almost equated to Tywin Lannister.  (“Lannister” screams “Lancaster” also).  As a powerful man fit to rule, sorely lacking in the blood connections to be King, he maneuvered his power to land on the winning side.  The “Bad Queen” (badass queen, I say), equated to Cersei Baratheon, and her relationship to Anne Neville, as written in the “Kingmaker’s Daughter” is very near the Cersei/Sansa Stark relationship in the second GoT season or the book “A Clash of Kings.”  The tyrant Edward Lancaster prince became our favorite love-to-hate Joffrey Baratheon as we want to slap him off of the Iron Throne. The Starks are comparable to the Yorks, and the Targaryens comparable to the Normans as invaders and conquerors.

But there’s another character that strikes me I didn’t see mentioned:  (It may have, I just haven’t seen it) Richard of York, the famed King Richard III.  The series to me carries his story very well, keeping him in the cautious background, but always there, so serious, so supportive of his York brother King Edward IV.  My husband didn’t have to give me a history lesson about Richard, since I’m a fanatic true crime reader.  Richard, to me screams Stannis Baratheon in GoT.  Like Richard, Stannis was loyal to his brother King Robert, but when Robert died, with the incestuous royal kids exposed, he thought he should have the Iron Throne.  To win, he almost sacrificed the boy Edric Storm by burning, and burned others and I believe will meet a bad end.   

Richard’s historic story is well known with a pair of princes, sons of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, his nephews “disappearing” in the Tower of London after he became King.   Phillipa Gregory makes an interesting alternative theory about the mystery of the missing Princes, but I disagree, though no one knows, obviously.  I’m not a historian, but I know Niccolo Machiavelli didn’t write “The Prince” based upon future royals; it was about European Royal culture.  One of his points was that The Prince must remove all potential enemies, regardless of age.  Therefore, the missing Princes are to me Martin’s fictitious Stark boys, Bran and Rickon.  In history, I agree with Shakespeare.  Sorry Richard III, you were King, and if you didn’t do it, it was on your watch. 

When I started watching “The White Queen” series I expected to read Phillipa Gregory’s books.  I didn’t expect to see “Game of Thrones” characters.  I applaud both writers in reminding us about history in two very different methods. 


  1. Excellent article with great insight.

  2. Thank you. It was a bit tough to write since GRRM has so many characters.