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Game of Thrones historical inspirations: Catelyn Stark

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The Game of Thrones story has some connection to real English history. Catelyn Stark is certainly inspired by a certain duchess.

There are a number of people and places used for historical inspiration for the Songs of Ice and Fire novels, which have been adapted for Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin has never spoken out about who has ended up being inspirations for various characters, periods, or even the whole situation in Westeros, but it is relatively easy to guess some of them if you look through history.

I’m going to spend some time doing that because I really see some links to the people I’ve written about in the past. The second post in this series is all about Catelyn Stark, the matriarch of the Stark family, who suffered in the Red Wedding. There is more to the story in the books, but the show didn’t delve into that. Who was she based on in history?

Catelyn Stark in Game of Thrones is Cecily Plantagenet, Duchess of York

From the start, the Stark family has been viewed as the House of York from English history during the Wars of the Roses. The House of York was made up of the Plantagenet family, Richard, Duke of York, his wife Cecily, Duchess of York, and their many children.

Catelyn is Cecily. The two lives run parallel in many ways up until Catelyn’s death, and their personalities are very similar. Even their childhoods—from what we know of Catelyn’s—seem somewhat similar.

Who was Cecily, Duchess of York?

Before I start comparing the two, it’s worth looking over who Cecily was. She was born Cecily Neville, and from a young age betrothed to her future husband, Richard. They married when Cecily was 14, and helped to join two families together. Like many women in history, Cecily was used as a pawn for her father, but she did grow to love her husband and never remarried after his death.

Cecily would go on to be the mother of two kings, Edward IV and Richard III, and would outlive her sons.

The lives of Catelyn Stark and Cecily, Duchess of York

The two lived very similar lives up to the point of Catelyn’s death in the Red Wedding. They were both married young, and to men that they grew to love. However, their marriages were not without scandal. The scandals were different, though.

In Game of Thrones, Ned Stark is supposed to have had an affair while fighting in the civil war in Westeros, and fathers a child. He brings that child back and asks Catelyn to accept the boy into the family. That child is Jon Snow and one that Catelyn has never really been able to love. While he was sick, she did care for him but she never really forgave her husband for that infidelity. Of course, we found out the truth in Game of Thrones Season 7.

In Cecily’s life, she was the main source of the scandal. Historians continue to speculate that Edward IV was not really Richard’s son, and therefore not a legitimate king. There is the possibility, looking into the timing of the birth, that Edward was conceived while Richard, Duke of York was away fighting. Cecily was supposed to have had an affair with an archer, but this was never proven. Richard raised the child as his own and fought and died to get Edward on the throne.

Both Cecily and Catelyn lose their husbands and sons during the war. Richard, Duke of York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield, while Ned Stark was executed for treason. Cecily’s second son, Edmund, was also killed at the same time as his father, while Catelyn’s eldest son was killed at the Red Wedding just before her.

The personalities and looks of Catelyn in Game of Thrones and Cecily

The two have very similar fiery and passionate personalities. Both were proud mothers and proud people. While it helped Cecily remain a power of authority in the English court, it led to Catelyn’s demise at the Red Wedding.

Both were also caring mothers and loving wives. They would do anything for their families and supported their children. That didn’t mean they liked everything their children did. Cecily had to deal with Elizabeth Woodville, and never believed a commoner was good enough for a king. Catelyn had to deal with Robb breaking an oath and marrying someone else for love.

They were both also supposed to be beautiful in their youth. It is very difficult to know just how beautiful Cecily was since there are just paintings that have survived. Similarly, with Catelyn, it was all about the opinions of people, which are subjective.

Do you see any other similarities between the two people? Maybe you see similarities between Catelyn and another person in history. These are my opinions of the historical inspirations in Game of Thrones based on the research that I have done in the past.

MORE: Do you need to watch Game of Thrones to understand House of the Dragon?

What historical inspirations do you see in the series? Share in the comments below.

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