[personal profile] wickdzoot
For all the praises the producers are heaping in The Game of Thrones and how nifty all of it is, including the characters and world, I must tell you, I am bemused that no one appears to realize how much of the basis of this world owes to the last Plantagent King, that is, Richard III, the next to last and second next to last Plantagenet Kings, Edward IV and Edward V--or wait, he was never crowned, so one supposes we cannot call him that.

Now, the parallels aren't exact, nor even particularly consistent as we've gone along, but still, it entertains me to have noticed it and that no one else appears to do so.

Robert Baratheon, when we meet him, is very nearly Edward IV to the very life. Carousing, drinking, overeating and ultimately, leaving two young sons after him, with his lord Protector ultimately murdered.

Well, I suppose depending on which side of the historical debate you're on, there could be some argument about that last. Was Richard III a wicked usurper who murdered his brothers children or a harsh, but fair king who landed in a bad spot because his brother, the late king, couldn't keep his codpiece laced up, and who, when forced to it, alleged took vows as binding as marriage to coax a virtuous lady into his bed.

At this date, the waters have been so muddied by the chaos of the dynastic wars, Tudor propaganda, and the intervening centuries, this is a debate that rivals any discussion of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin in terms of utter futility and uselessness, although it can be more fun.

Anyway, back to the Baratheons. The correspondence isn't exact, of course; Ned Stark appears to temporarily be standing in for Richard, Duke of Gloucester, until the awful Joffrey has his head chopped off. Then, Robb Stark seems to take over the role by claiming the title King of the North--which is fun, because Richard remained a hero in the North, apparently for generations after that first Tudor, unlovable, venal and exigent Henry, killed Richard.

The Lannisters, though, that's where the real fun lies. The queen, of course, is Elizabeth Woodville, unloved by the peers of the land, although Elizabeth's worst sin appears to have been a Lancastrian widow who, moreover, spoiled Warwick's foreign alliance plans and to work hard to raise her family to prominence. Although, amusingly, Jacquetta, her mother, had already been prominent, more or less, and like Queen Katherine, the widow of Henry V, had thrown over being nothing more than a dowager royal for a love match with someone of a lower social status.

One does wonder how much Edward fell in love and how much he just really wanted out from under Warwick's admittedly skillful thumbs. Still he allegedly remained somewhat besotted, even once the new wore off and he continued his wayward ways with mistresses of varying social status and power.

The drinking and carousing, some believe, had to do with his sense of guilt over having his reprehensible brother George drowned in a vat of George's favorite wine. Which tale has also been called apocryphal and others have countered with details that suggest there's nothing apocryphal about it.

So, George, Duke of Clarence, was a bad brother, but I'm not sure which of the Baratheon brothers is supposedly representative of the bad brother. I'm guessing Renly, who is fairly feckless. Stannis is far too humourless. In fact, Stannis reminds one more of one facet of Richard of Gloucester; Richard was an accomplished warrior who served his brother Edward very well, and compared to George, who was something of a wit and bon vivant when not whinging about how he wasn't the king instead of Edward, he was stolid and dull. So, split the soldier Richard away from the rest of him and you might have Stannis. Plus, Stannis' wife is established as being sickly and unable to bear an heir, and poor Anne Neville, Warwick's daughter, was consumptive and apparently not robust. Her older sister, who marriied the older brother, George, bore two children before expiring after giving birth was likewise less than robust, but then in our decadent modern age, we don't realize just how prevalent and deadly 'consumption' was.

There were those who claimed that the close relationship between Elizabeth Woodville and her brother Anthony was incestuous, and the relatiionship between Robert's queen and her brother is actually incestuous.

I don't believe that anyone ever called into question whether or not Edward IV actually fathered his sons Edward and Richard, however. Their lack of legitimacy goes back to the fact that their father was allegedly precontracted to someone else before he married Elizabeth Woodville. Poor Elizabeth; unlike Cersei Lannister, she wasn't inherently vicious, but do recall I refer to the Cersei in the books. The Cersei of the series is actually a bit more interesting and multi-layered, which is something we usually don't see happening between the book and the screen, large or small.

(Although I do love that the actress who played Anne Boleyn in that abortion The Tudors playing the slightly less than virtuous Margery of Highgarden. She's still a vixen, but a lot less medieval via California than she was as Anne Boleyn.)

The casual sociopaths of Game of Thrones do get tiring, though. Mind, since most of the higher aristocracy of any country appears to have been made up people suffering from sociopathy to varying degrees, it's hard to complain much about it. It just becomes harder and harder to really give a damn about any of the characters as time goes one and they are either butchered, or revealed to be capable of the most vicious behaviors....

And fair warning for those who haven't been reading the books--it only gets worse as time goes on. This is why I've been less than thrilled about Martin's novels and a lot more enthused about his novellas and shorter fiction. 'A Song for Lya' haunts me still decades after reading it for the first time.

The positive thing is that Martin hasn't just replayed the Plantagenet tragedy with different names; he's taken the raw material, given it a few twists and hems and sewn a sleeve or two in place of a pant leg, but it has a new shape. The brutality of the world he's built really has nothing on the actual world of the Plantagenets, of course, but to our sensibilities, I suspect it seems worse. It's one of those mysteries that allow us to keep thinking our own age is the best, except for that mysterious golden age that somehow hides in the back of our minds.

I keep reading the books, but mostly now because I'm determined to find out what becomes of Arya and Jon Snow. And, in a more academic way, what becomes of Stannis and his 'red woman'. And, of course, after the first three books, we've met additional families and people and while few of those have done much to engage me, there have been a few.

If Martin has done anything, he's done a great job of illustrating why the world is a good understudy for hell, since very little of what he's written, aside from the dragons and magic, is any worse than human beings have already endured.

Bah, humbug, I can't even say that democracy is better than monarchy, because I no longer believe it exists.

But George, some of us recognize your roots, even if most of us don't.
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