The Red Wedding Was Based On A Real, Historical Event

Warning: third season Game of Thrones spoilers

In the third season of Game of Thrones (and the book it’s based on A Storm of Swords), the Starks become too powerful and threaten the crown, held by the boy king Joffrey and his family, the Lannisters. So, the Lannisters conspired with a Stark ally, Lord Roose Bolton, and with Lord Walder Frey who Robb Stark insulted by breaking an oath to marry one of his daughters. The Freys agreed to forget the insult if a Stark cousin marries another Frey daughter. During the wedding, Frey and Bolton men massacred the 16 year-old head of House Stark, Robb, and his entire contingent.

The real life inspiration for this is apparently an event called the Black Dinner, and it took place in Scotland — which itself is likely the inspiration for The North — in 1440. In that time, Clan Douglas had become quite powerful and was a threat to the crown, held by the boy king James II of Scotland and his advisers, William Chrichton and Alexander Livingston.  So, the advisers conspired with a great-uncle of the Douglases and invited the 16 year-old Earl of Douglas, William, and his younger brother David to a conciliatory dinner at Castle Edinburgh. During the meal, Chrichton and Livingston arrested and beheaded them in the presence of the king.

It’s called the Black Dinner because the clan was also known as the Black Douglases (more on why below) and because, supposedly, the signal to arrest the boys was someone bringing the head of a black bull into the feast hall.

Roose Bolton killing Robb Stark at the Red Wedding

Roose Bolton killing Robb Stark at the Red Wedding


Besides the similarity between the boy kings (13 year-old Joffrey and 10 year-old James II), the boy head of the rival clan (16 year-old Robb Stark and 16 year-old William Douglas), and the deadly ruse of a conciliatory feast, there are others. Both Joffrey’s father in the books, King Robert, and James II’s father in reality, King James I, were assassinated. And Robb Stark’s father Eddard was named regent of the boy king, as was William Douglas’ father, Archibald, 5th Earl of Douglas. (Ned Stark never actually got to be regent because he was executed pretty quickly, but Archibald was regent for about two years until he died of a fever.)

And, in another parallel, in the early 1300s, James Douglas was the best friend of King Robert The Bruce, much like Ned Stark was the best friend of King Robert Baratheon. There were also two branches of Clan Douglas: the main Black Douglases and the offshoot Red Douglases, which came from the illegitimate George Douglas, who by the way, was seen a product of incest because his mother was also his father’s sister-in-law. In the Song of Ice and Fire series, besides the Starks, there are the Karstarks, which came from a second-born Stark, Karlon.

After the Black Dinner, since the murdered William was 16 and had no children, the head of Clan Douglas passed to William’s great-uncle James, who became the 7th Earl. (Historians believe James was complicit in the Black Dinner, since he stood to gain greatly from it.) He died about three years later, and his son, another William, succeeded him as the 8th Earl. Almost another decade later — 12 years after the events of the Black Dinner — King James II invited this second William to a negotiation, and not having learned from the fate of his same-named cousin, he went. During the meeting, they got into an argument and the King stabbed William and threw him out of a window. Court officials then pummeled his body some more after.

William’s younger brother James then became the 9th Earl of Douglas, and took up arms against King James II to avenge William, but he lost in battle to the King and the Red Douglases, and the title of Earl of Douglas died with him — the Red Douglases were Earls of Angus. So, if history is any indication, it’s not looking good for the Starks.

See also:

Via Wired

Comments are closed.