On the vast grasslands, a fierce warrior arose on horseback to become the leader of a great empire, uniting the previously warring clans together and molding them into a skilled army that stoked fear in all they encountered. He rewarded supporters with blood-oath loyalty and those who opposed him were destroyed savagely. One upstart in a neighboring province insulted the fierce warrior and was repaid with molten silver poured into his eyes and ears. Long after his death, the warrior is still known as “The Stallion Who Mounted the World.”
Sounds like Game of Thrones, right?
Well it’s not. Because George R.R. Martin stole all of his material from history.
Today we’re talking about GAME OF THRONES! I’m so excited. The intro? That was about the Mongol leader Genghis Khan, who was obviously George R.R. Martin’s inspiration for Khal Drogo and the Dothraki. Although, really, wouldn’t Daenerys be Genghis Khan? Awesome. And to give you an idea of how much material we have to go over, I only had time to mention the Dothraki-Mongol connection in the intro! Whoa!
Today’s episode is about the very real history that inspired Game of Thrones. Basically, we’re talking about early and medieval English history side-by-side with the fictional and slightly plagiarized history of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world. Spoiler alert. I’m going to be discussing the events from the show and books going all the way up until the most recent episode – obviously, the focus of today’s show is the real history of England, but I will definitely reference things from the show that might spoil it for you if you aren’t caught up. So just go back, watch all 69 episodes, and then come join us when you’re done. We’ll wait.
Actually no we won’t. We can’t wait because there are only FOUR more episodes left in the series! Ah! Today’s episode is called, “Game of Thrones or, ‘The George R.R. Martin Historical Plagiarism Tour.’” This is Anti-Social Studies; I’m Emily Glankler; settle in and let’s get some historical context.
|Real History||Game of Thrones History|
|Prehistory: hunters and gatherers, Katniss pre-Hunger Games, etc.||Children of the Forest inhabit Westeros.|
|Rise of Rome |
(509 BCE – 476 CE):
Rome expands and conquers most of western Eurasia, including the southern half of the British Isles, while north of Hadrian’s Wall are more primitive tribes like Caledonians and Picts.
|The Age of the First Men |
(12,000 years before the show or BGoT):
Humans migrates to Westeros and displace the Children of the Forest, setlting in the open lands of the south while north of Brandon Starks’ Wall are wildlings and White Walkers.
|Early Middle Ages |
(476 – 1000 CE):
Germanic tribes populate the former Roman Empire. Anglo-Saxons invade England, bringing language, culture, and Seven Kingdoms in southern England. The North is still “wilder,” populated by indigenous tribes and Norsemen.
|Andal Invasion |
(6,000 years BGoT):
Escaping the rise of the Valyrian Empire, the Andals from Essos cross the Narrow Sea and invade Westeros. They bring language, culture, and religion to the southern half of Westeros, which unites into Seven Kingdoms. The North is still “wilder,” with the Starks descended from the First Men and north of the Wall still populated by wildlings and White Walkers.
|William the Conqueror |
William from Normandy crosses the English Channel and unites the Seven Kingdoms, becoming the first King of England. He establishes the House of Normandy, supplanting the Anglo-Saxon ruling houses.
|Aegon the Conqueror |
(300 years BGoT):
Aegon I Targaryen crosses the narrow Sea from Dragonstone and unites the Seven Kingdoms, ruling as King from the Iron Throne and supplanting the Andal and First Men ruling houses.
|Plantagenet Dynasty |
Henry II joins with the north and east of England to take down William’s son and establish a new dynasty: House of Plantagenet.
|Robert’s Rebellion |
(20 years BGoT):
Robert Baratheon joins with the North and the Vale to take down the Targaryens and establish a new dynasty.
|The Wars of the Roses |
(1455 – 1485 CE):
Two families – the Lancasters and the Yorks – fight for the throne. Ultimately, Henry Tudor returns from exile across the narrow Sea and unites the houses as House Tudor.
|Game of Thrones: You know, the entire plot of the HBO show.|
Act 1: Old Valyria = Rome
Much of the Song of Ice and Fire depends on understanding some fictional ancient history. But you should be fine because, if you’ve been listening to my podcast, then you know actual history which is basically the same thing. The world of Westeros today and everything we care about in Game of Thrones stems from an ancient civilization known as Old Valyria. Thousands of years earlier, the city of Valyria on a warm peninsula in the middle of a sea expanded to conquer most of the known world using advanced technology, military skill, and the lure of its sophisticated culture. The Valyrians are the Romans, people.
The Valyrians began as pastoral nomads until they discovered a chain of volcanoes known as the Fourteen Fires. Within these volcanoes were dragons and the Valyrian people apparently watched every single How to Train Your Dragon movie and then used that power to conquer a massive amount of territory across the continent of Essos (basically Eurasia). They established a governing structure that resembled the early Roman Republic – a collection of wealthy aristocratic rulers that shared power, including the Targaryens. For over 5,000 years the city of Valyria (like Rome) was the capital of one of the greatest civilizations in the world. Interestingly, they never attempted to conquer the island of Westeros (which is 100% Britain), viewing it as a “poor backwater” similar to the Roman view of the British Isles. Although the Romans considered the British Isles as the land of uncivilized savages, they did eventually conquer most of it – fighting battles and constant rebellions by Celtic tribes. More on that in a second.
Similar to Latin, the language of High Valyrian is still considered in the Game of Thrones world to be a language of culture, education, and refinement. And many of the languages across Essos descend from High Valyrian, much like the Romance languages of Western Europe. Roman technology far surpassed other civilizations around them, similar to the notable Valyrian steel that can conveniently kill White Walkers. And Valyrian roads still run across the entire continent of Essos, similar to one of the most lasting Roman achievements: infrastructure.
How did this great civilization end? Well you know what they say about playing with fire… If you play with fire your civilization will be engulfed by a massive volcanic eruption, or something like that. Known as the Doom of Valyria, the capital was engulfed in lava and volcanic ash and the only Valyrian family, and their dragons, that survived was the Targaryens because their home was on Dragonstone, on an island in the Narrow Sea. This cataclysmic event is eerily similar to a series of volcanic eruptions that did occur in Europe in the 500s – just a few decades after Rome had fallen to the Germanic tribes. These eruptions shot ash into the air, darkening the sky for over a year and caused the temperature in Europe to drop a full 2 degrees – leading to agricultural disasters and famine. Now this isn’t the only reason why Europe fell into its so-called “Dark Age” but it definitely didn’t help. In Game of Thrones, a century after the Doom, some of the former colony-states of Valyria began to assert their independence and joined together in trade and commerce – these Free Cities, like Braavos, are descended from the Valyrians and would be very similar to the growing European monarchies throughout the late Middle Ages that spoke languages descended from Latin and lived in manor estates passed down from Roman nobility.
So, if ancient history in the Song of Ice and Fire is Old Valyria/Rome… then the states that rose out of the ashes of the ancient Valyrian kingdom, slowly uniting into connected, and competing, nations should be inspired by those of postclassical Europe. And, by God if George isn’t consistent, because the Westeros we know is basically medieval England.
Act 2: Early Westerosi – I mean, British – history
So, I really struggled with how to organize this part of the episode because there are SO many links between British and Westerosi history. Should I go through the history of Westeros and tell you how that relates to real history? Or vice versa? Ultimately, I had to remind myself that I’m technically a history podcast, not a Game of Thrones podcast, so I figured I would stick with real British history as the heart of the rest of this episode, but man I really just wanted to go into a tangent about fictional Westerosi history instead. But don’t worry, plenty of tangents still await us.
So, let’s just walk through the basic history of the British Isles and stop along the way on our “George R.R. Martin Plagiarism Tour of History.” In the broadest terms, British history consists of the following eras: Prehistory where people were hunting and gathering; then Britain was a fringe part of the Roman Empire, but ultimately they collapsed and most of the Romans left; then Britain was invaded by Anglo-Saxons who brought the language and culture of England today; slowly these tribes coalesced into kingdoms, until they were conquered by an outsider named William of Normandy who united the kingdoms and became the first King of England. And you know the rest. Ladies, gentlemen, a Magna Carta, yadda yadda yadda Shakespeare and constitutional monarchy.
Now let’s go back into some more detail. British history, as does all history, begins with Prehistory. Tricky. The Paleolithic Era in Britain was pretty much like the Paleolithic Era everywhere – some people hunted, some people gathered, you know the drill. This would be similar to the reign of the Children of the Forest in Game of Thrones. These “children” were actually very old human-like magical creatures that ruled the land before the arrival of men. They kept no written records, so their history was not recorded – which is exactly why this time period is called Prehistory in both real and fictional Britains. Stuff happened. We just don’t know what that stuff is because we don’t have writing, or records, or a Three-Eyed Raven to creepily tell us about it.
Westerosi history continues with the arrival of the First Men about 12,000 years before the events of the show. Originally, there was a land bridge connecting Westeros with the continent of Essos and these first humans walked across the bridge and clashed with the Children of the Forest. In that war a few important things happened – 1: the land bridge was destroyed, making Westeros an island. And 2: the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers to fight for them against the First Men. Bad idea. Ultimately, the two sides signed a pact and the First Men settled in the open lands and the Children of the Forest remained in… well… the forest. If we wanted to be literal with our timeline, this would correspond with the Roman invasion of Britain. The Romans never fully gained control over the British isles, especially struggling to control the north, but the way they viewed themselves they would see the Romans as the “First Men” to arrive in Britain, replacing the “barbaric” and pagan people already living there – although the prehistoric people of the British Islands would disagree with being equated with the Children of the Forest. How patronizing.
Either way, the First Men and the Children of the Forest eventually have to fight together when the Long Night descends and the White Walkers try to conquer the island. Notably, Brandon Stark builds the Wall and creates the Night’s Watch – similar to Hadrian who built the wall to keep the “savages” of the north out of the land of the First Men, I mean, Romans. More on the wall in a second. When the Roman Empire eventually falls, Britain is left on its own and is subject to an invasion far more important than the Romans. To be clear, the Romans did leave their mark on British history but mostly in mythical terms – similar to the First Men. Real British history that concerns the people who live their today really starts with the Anglo-Saxons – much like modern, and well documented, Westerosi history begins with the invasion of the Andals.
So, in British history, after the Roman Empire fell in 476, other Germanic groups fought for control of the leftovers of the once great empire. A few groups coming from northern Germany and Scandinavia – the two largest were the Angles and the Saxons – eventually invaded Britain, bringing with them their language and culture. This is the reason why English is not a Romance language but is actually a Germanic language – more similar to German than French or Italian. It has been debated how large-scale this “invasion” was by the Anglo-Saxons, but today, most historians believe that they were actually a relatively small group that crossed the English Channel and settled in Britain. They slowly acculturated themselves – mixing with the indigenous people of Britain. It should be noted that the Anglo-Saxons stayed mostly in the south, they had a hard time controlling the northern half of the island (Scotland today) which was populated by various indigenous tribes and Norsemen from Scandinavia. So, in British history as in Westerosi history, there is a geographic, ethnic, and cultural divide between the North and the South.
All of this is almost identical to the Andal invasion of Westeros after the Long Night and the Age of the First Men. The Andals were a group of people from Essos fleeing the rise of Old Valyria. Wanting freedom and independence, they crossed the Narrow Sea (or the English Channel) into Westeros where they conquered the south – again, having a hard time with the stubborn north. They killed the Children of the Forest and intermarried with the First Men, creating most of the houses we know from Game of Thrones in the southern half of Westeros. Although most of the houses, like the Lannisters, claim to be entirely Andal (more cultured and “civilized”), in fact, most of the houses are probably a mix of the Andals and the First Men. The exception is House Arryn of the Vale, which is considered pure Andal blood, which gives them a real superiority complex that make them feel comfortable sending people “flying” and breastfeeding their children for far too long. The Andals also brought the Faith of the Seven, making it the dominant religion in most of Westeros, except the North that still descends from the First Men and practices its older religion that revolves around staring at Godswood trees, I think.
So, in British history, the Anglo-Saxons came from Europe and populated most of the southern half of the island (England) while the north (Scotland) was still more tribalistic, with various indigenous groups and ethnic Norsemen (a.k.a. Vikings). And in Westeros, the Andals came from Essos and populated most of the southern half of the island, creating great houses, while the north was more tribalistic, descended more directly from the First Men. Whoa. Chill out, George R.R. Martin. Leave something to the imagination.
So, now we are fully in the medieval period of British history. Rome has fallen, the Anglo-Saxon tribes have conquered the southern half of the island and slowly they have coalesced into a Heptarchy – or Seven Kingdoms. Yep. Seven kingdoms. In England there was one kingdom north of th River Humber known as Northumbria – that’s the North, y’all, keep up. The Southern Kingdoms of Westeros were the Vale, the Stormlands, the Reach, the Westerlands, the Iron Islands, and Dorne – all of which are the fictional equivalent of the British kingdoms of East Anglia, Wessex, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Mercia – which I’ve heard of because they mention it in Monty Python.
It should be noted that all of those seven kingdoms, even Northumbria, were located in what is modern-day England, with the “savage” indigenous people of Britain still living in the real north – making Scotland the home of the “Wildlings.” Back to Roman history for a second, one way the Roman army attempted to protect themselves from the savages in the wilds of Scotland and northern England was to build… you guessed it, a wall. During the time of the Roman Empire, Hadrian’s Wall was seen by the Romans as the end of the earth. The low-ranking men who manned the wall, forbidden to take wives or have children, would stare into the wilderness on the other side, fearful of the Caledonian or Pict tribes north of the wall. These people are described by multiple sources as being long-limbed with fiery red hair, no word on whether they drank Giant’s milk or if that was just a Tormund thing. These tribes north of the wall resented the Roman occupation and the division of their land. One chief Calgacus made a speech that was recorded in Roman literature: “Robbery, slaughter, plunder – these by false names they call empire… and where they make desolation, they call it peace.” Sounds very Mance Rayder, to me. So anyway, these tribes were still around and hadn’t been conquered by the Anglo-Saxons, retaining their independence and probably walking around saying things like “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
So, the Roman Empire came and went. Then the Anglo-Saxons invaded, bringing some cultural and linguistic unity to the southern half of the British Isles, creating the Seven Kingdoms. But the creation of modern England as a united nation is typically attributed to William the Conqueror – a bastard son who crossed the Narrow Sea (the English Channel) and became ruler of all England. William subjugated the Anglo-Saxon rulers and established the Norman conquest of England. Fun fact: Normandy (on the northern coast of France) was originally founded by Vikings, or Norsemen. So William the Conqueror was technically a Viking. Cool.
As an outsider who crossed water and won decisive battles to defeat the seven kingdoms and take the throne, William the Conqueror is most definitely the inspiration for Aegon Targaryen, also known as Aegon the Conqueror. With Essos destroyed thanks to the Doom, Aegon grew tired of ruling just the island of Dragonstone, so he crossed the Narrow Sea and conquered Westeros, establishing the Targaryen Dynasty that ruled Westeros from the Iron Throne.
But, as we’ve seen throughout world history, unity does not necessarily mean stability. And whenever one person rules a large and diverse landmass for too long, eventually all hell will break loose.
Act 3: The War of the Dragons – I mean – Roses
The single historical event you should know if you are a Game of Thrones fan is the English War of the Roses. It’s technically called the Wars of the Roses but that sounds weird to me so I’m not calling it that. George R.R. Martin has said that this event served as much of the inspiration for his story and when I tell you about it you will go, “Um, yeah. No s**t George.”
OK, so before we get to the war: British nobility is dominated by various houses. They intermarry, some grow more powerful, some decline – you get it, because you watch Game of Thrones. So the first royal house of England was the House of Normandy, founded by William the Conqueror. So, if William of Normandy is Aegon of House Targaryen, my question was: who overthrew that first dynasty? In other words, who is my Robert Baratheon?
Enter: Henry II. Described as handsome in his youth, with red hair and large head, Henry II was stocky and bow-legged from so much hunting on horseback. Bingo. He’s our Robert. He had become Duke of Normandy (the region in France – not the house) and married Eleanor of Acquitaine – badass Crusader from Season 1 of my podcast. Now he set his sights on the throne of England. Henry II braved winter storms to bring his army to the heart of England. Supported by the North (Hello, Ned Stark) and the East (Hello, Jon Arryn), he took down King Stephen, who was the son of William the Conqueror. So in real English history Robert’s Rebellion occurred just one generation after the Targaryen conquest, but we get it that it makes for a better story if the bad guys ruled for centuries. OK. So now, in English history, we have established a new ruling dynasty: House Plantagenet. Fun fact: the patriarch of their house and Henry II’s dad was named Geoffrey. No word on how much he liked crossbows. They rule for about 200 years without too much trouble. Henry’s son Richard the Lionhearted goes off and fights the Crusades against Saladin. His brother John signs the Magna Carta against his will. You know. History stuff. But let’s get to the dragons!
Basically, about 200 years after Henry II’s real-life Robert’s Rebellion, a king named Edward III died suddenly in 1377 and there was a question of succession. Uh oh. You see, his oldest son and heir was already dead, but he left behind a young son who technically would inherit the throne. But, the dead king also had a few adult sons who were pretty pissed at the idea that they would get passed over for their dead older brother’s kid. Pretty standard family dispute.
So, the throne went to Edward’s very young grandson, skipping his other adult sons who all believed they should claim the throne instead (kind of like how Renly and Stannis both thought they would make a better king than young asshole Joffrey). So the House Plantagenet splits along those who align with the young king or the older uncles and these power struggles are known as the War of the Roses. On the one side you had House Lancaster (a.k.a. the Lannisters), symbolized by a red rose, and on the other side House York (a.k.a. House Stark), symbolized by a white rose. Already you’re like, whoa. Chill on the plagiarism, George.
First, the Lancasters gain the throne under Henry IV, then his son King Henry V, and then… you guessed it… Henry VI. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, I guess. Becoming king at just nine months old, he was described as weak-willed and dominated by his advisers. Well of course he was – he was just a baby! Oh, I think they mean once he was old enough to actually rule. Apparently Henry VI was more prone to piety and studying than ruling, and so he often let those around him wield much of the power in his name. We know that because he married a beautiful and ruthless woman named Margaret of Anjou who essentially ruled as Queen for House Lancaster, constantly attempting to get her son Prince Edward on the throne. She’s Cersei and we hate her.
Margaret of Anjou was especially adept at promoting her own loyal advisers into key positions and persecuting any potential threat to her power or her husband. The biggest threat came in the form of Richard of York (a.k.a. Ned Stark). Richard came from House York but he was the King Henry VI’s closest adviser and a loyal general who had fought alongside the king – much like Ned and Robert Baratheon were old war buddies from Robert’s Rebellion. Richard of York constantly warned the king about his wife and her loyal advisers (Littlefinger and Varys) who were threatening his rule. For his trouble Cersei – I mean Queen Margaret – had him shipped off to Ireland. At this point you’re probably like, well at least his head wasn’t chopped off… hold on to that thought for a minute…
Discontent spread across the kingdom as Margaret of Anjou’s (our Cersei’s) shadow rule drove the country into corruption and military failures against France, specifically losing the Hundred Years’ War (the one where Joan of Arc led an army and was burned at the stake for her trouble). In this context, Richard of York (our Ned) returns from Ireland with an army (from the north, I’d like to point out) and ends up getting appointed Protector of the Realm after King Henry VI suffers a mental breakdown (some might call him a “Mad King”…) As protector of the realm, his heirs from House York are designated to succeed the king after he dies – not the Queen’s House Lancaster. Uh oh. Ned/Robert of York dies in battle against the Queen’s loyalist army, who then cut off his head and put it on a pike. Aw bummer. Sorry historical Ned, it seems you’re destined to lose your head in history and in fiction. But, his son does inherit the crown.
So Ned’s son, Edward IV becomes king (Hello handsome Rob Stark) and he continues fighting the Lancaster army. He wins major battles, including the Battle of Towton which is described as the “largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil,” very similar to Rob’s victory at the Battle of Whispering Wood against the Lannister army. Cersei/Margaret flees with her cruel son Prince Edward of Westminster (Get out of here Joffrey!)
Everything was going pretty well for Edward IV/Rob Stark until he backed out of an arranged marriage with the daughter of a powerful ally – the Earl of Warwick. He’s our creepy old Walder Frey. Offended that the king would marry the daughter of a minor noble over his arranged bride, he switches sides to the Lancasters, brings back Margaret’s son, the awful prince Joffrey/Edward of Westminster and renews fighting against Edward IV/Rob Stark. Fortunately, Joffrey was killed in battle before he could point too many crossbows at young women and Edward IV/Rob Stark dies a peaceful death as king. No Red Weddings today! Haha!
Now it’s 1483 and his son succeeds him. Everything should be good, right? The Lancasters have been mostly defeated and the Yorks rule England. But of course it’s not that easy. The new king is only 12 years old and his uncle (the former kings brother – Richard III) believes he should rule instead; total Stannis move.
The main reason why Richard believed his nephew was unfit to rule was because he was the product of an illegitimate marriage. In Edward V’s case, that was because his dad King Edward IV had gone against his arranged marriage and married another woman instead. Dang it, Rob, with your love. This is similar to Joffrey’s issue in the show, although his illegitimacy was because his father was not King Robert Baratheon but, in fact, his uncle Jamie Lannister. Gross.
Richard had also served as an able administrator during Edward IV’s reign – dominating in northern England, even going so far as to create a Council of the North, and possibly named Lord of the North. No word on how many times he was brought back from the dead. The young king and his younger brother fought with their uncle, ultimately losing and mysteriously disappearing. Kind of like Bran and Rickon after Theon took control of Winterfell. Richard III became king and, at the same time, one of the most divisive figures in English history.
So, according to traditional histories Richard III murdered his own nephews to secure his spot on the throne. Total George R.R. Martin move. But that may not actually be true. He seems to be one of those figures who has a lot of enemies, and those enemies very likely told a lot of stories about him – some true, some exaggerated. Either way, Richard III was not a beloved king in his day. He was small and, up until recently, he was described simply as a hunchback – mostly thanks to Shakespeare’s less-than-flattering portrayal in his play. But, just a few years ago, the lost remains of the king were discovered during a dig in England and it turned out that he suffered from scoliosis as a child that twisted his spine. Either way, he was small, deformed, and seen by many in his family as a monster. However, records also tell us that he was incredibly smart and witty. Tyrion Lannister, anyone?
Richard III – the king from House York – was not destined to rule for long. Because, across the Narrow Sea of the English Channel, Henry Tudor had been raised in exile, awaiting the day when he could avenge his father who had been killed during a previous rebellion. He was the son of the Duke of Lancaster and was descended through his mother’s side from Edward III, the original king whose death sparked this whole War of the Roses. Henry Tudor is 100% Daenerys Targaryen, without dragons and a Dothraki horde.
As the Yorks feuded amongst themselves for the throne – nephews against uncles, yadda yadda yadda – Henry Tudor was raising an army across the Narrow Sea/English Channel. He gained money and troops from the French – always anxious to weaken their enemy England. He had his own Jorah Mormont in the form of his uncle to advise him. And he made an unlikely alliance with the recently disappeared boy-king’s maternal grandparents, unhappy that King Richard had most likely had their grandson murdered – much like Lady Olenna turned against the Lannisters after Margary was blown up by wildfyre. Henry also acquired ships and soldiers from the Scottish (arguably Yara’s Ironborn in this analogy), and he landed in his ancestral Wales at the Lancaster stronghold probably called Dragonstone where he amassed a huge army of 5,000 soldiers.
Henry Tudor quickly defeated Richard III, making Richard the last English king to die in battle and Henry the last king to gain the throne through battle. Cool. Henry Tudor, descended from House Lancaster, married Elizabeth of York (the daughter of the former king Edward IV), joining the two houses and ending a century of war. As king, he became Henry VII and he and Elizabeth of York would father future King Henry VIII (you know, the guy who broke from the church so he could marry five more times). The Tudor House would reign for over a century, with the height of its power reached under the queen named for her grandmother Elizabeth of York: Elizabeth I.
So… what does this all mean for the ending of Game of Thrones? The fact that the War of the Roses ended with young Henry in exile raising an army and conquering Britain bodes pretty well for Daenerys.
Or, is Elizabeth of York Cat Stark and, if so, will her daughter Sansa end up becoming the most successful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms like Elizabeth I? They both have red hair and Sansa would probably be happy to follow in Elizabeth’s footsteps and never have kids considering that whole Ramsay Bolton saga…
Or, will George R.R. Martin be inspired by Henry Tudor’s decision to end the fighting by joining the two houses? Based on this, we would need some sort of union between the Lannisters/Targaryens (on the Lancaster side) and the Starks/Baratheons (on the York side). In that case, each of the Stark kids (not Bran, because he’s awful and doesn’t count anymore) could marry into one of the respective families: Jon and Daenerys Targaryen – a little incest never hurt anyone. (In fact, Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York were third cousins.) Sansa is already technically married to Tyrion Lannister; and… my ultimate hope… Arya could marry Gendry, the bastard son of King Robert Baratheon. Maybe the series ends with a huge Brady Bunch style triple wedding and no one dies and everyone goes off and makes adorable Direwolf pup children! The end!
Yeah probably not.
What we do know is that the War of the Roses marked the end of the Middle Ages for Britain. When Henry VII finally solidified control and set up his new house, he set England on a path toward Renaissance (in fact Shakespeare would be inspired to write many of his plays about these events), Enlightenment, and, eventually, democratic government. So will we see the series end with some resolution toward a more hopeful political future? Maybe. Or maybe everyone just dies in the end. That would be much more Shakespearean.