Walder Frey and Warwick

Today, I realized I’d made an oversight about Walder Frey, the treacherous lecherous slayer of Robb Stark. I kind of had an “Oh no!” moment. Rather than returning to my series of posts about the “Second Sons,” I’m going to correct this right away.

George RR Martin may have drawn inspiration for Lord Frey from Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (“Warwick the Kingmaker”).


Richard Neville, or Warwick the Kingmaker, may have inspired Lord Frey’s fury over the broken marriage promise. Warwick the Kingmaker is also a character in Philippa Gregory’s novel The Kingmaker’s Daughters.


As I’ve mentioned previously, George RR Martin likes to mix and match his “borrowings” from history. In my posts about Ned Stark, Robb Stark, and Robert Baratheon, I discuss how Martin may base a character on a person from one period but give the character storylines inspired by events that happened years after the historical person’s death. For example, Martin may partly base Ned Stark on Richard of York but he appears to draw some of Ned’s storyline from the succession crisis of 1483, which occurred twenty-three years after Richard of York’s death.

In Lord Frey’s case, Martin may draw from Thomas Stanley for the cold opportunism, lateness to battle, and terrible line about his heir and Ralph Neville for the treachery and numerous children. However, I think Warwick’s betrayal of Edward IV (after Edward repeatedly broke promises for marriage alliances) may also have inspired Martin. But first, who was Warwick?

Walder Frey, Warwick

Warwick cut a bold swath across English history. Charismatic, fearless, generous, arrogant, a touch greedy, and extremely ambitious, Warwick was a brilliant strategist, statesman, and naval commander. He also had the common touch and people loved him. He knew little tricks that endeared him to all. Every day Warwick’s London manor cooked up to six oxen for breakfast and let any man who could claim he knew Warwick or a member of his household take away as much meat as he could spear on a dagger.

However, like most of his caste, spilling blood for material gain was not a problem. Warwick came of age living in a turbulent Northern England where ferociously loyal people lived on sparsely populated territories mired in violence. The Scots regularly raided the border villages and blood feuds plagued the land.

Young Edward IV

Warwick heavily influenced the young Edward IV (shown).

Warwick’s powerful family, the Nevilles, were locked in an increasingly bloody conflict with the Percys. Nerve-rackingly, throughout the 1450s, both families kept building up their armies. Finally, the feud triggered military action. It then escalated into the first phase of the Wars of the Roses when factions hardened as the Nevilles aligned with Richard of York against the Percys.

The combined abundant resources of Warwick and the House of York’s ultimately proved decisive in 1461. Warwick’s military might helped put Edward IV on the throne. This was thanks to Warwick’s great landholdings. Not only was Warwick one of the wealthiest landowners in England, his extensive lands let him call up a huge army of men when needed – and this gave him the power to create kings. (Much like money can “buy” elections today (through advertising), back then having a lot of land (wealth) could “buy” military victories (and put kings on thrones).)

However, not unlike Lord Frey who crucially supported Robb’s military when he let them cross the Twins, Warwick expected compensation for his indispensable support.

Although Edward gave Warwick lands and enormous influence, this proved insufficient. For several years, Warwick was the power behind the throne, guiding the young, somewhat unsure king’s hand in most decisions. Perhaps, Warwick came to think of himself as king – or even mightier than kings. His overweening pride was to play a huge role in the events that followed.

To be continued…


Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."


  • […] furious by broken promises, humiliations, and marriage agreements. This post, which continues from the first in this series, focuses on the first in a chain of marriage issues that culminated in Warwick betraying Edward IV […]

  • Reply July 1, 2013


    I’m glad that somebody else has noticed the similarities between the Wars of the Roses and Game of Thrones! As history major, my friends all think I made these connections up! (Although as a Nevile sympathizer… I can’t imagine Frey and Warwick as the same…..)

    • Reply July 3, 2013


      I have to ask… What does it meant to be a “Neville sympathizer”? Do you see people like Warwick and Ralph Neville in a more sympathetic light? Or, do you mean the entire House of York (e.g., Cecily Neville’s children)?

      • Reply July 13, 2013

        Jaime Adair

        By the way, this wasn’t a sarcastic comment – I meant it seriously. I’d like to think that nobody is all bad and Warwick was extremely well liked at the time. (He has suffered in the annals of history since then though.)

  • Reply November 22, 2013


    First of all, let me start by saying that I am really enjoying your blog for I think the War of the Roses elements in ASoIaF/GoT are what drew me to the books in the first place.

    This is an interesting idea, the possible similarities between Frey and Warwick. But, to be honest, I always though Warwick was closer to Ned Stark and not only because they were the great Northern lords who kept the borders under control. Warwick’s father and brother died under a mad king (well, actually, thanks to the mad king’s wife, but it was in Henry’s name) in a dishonourable way. Ned was the pillar of Robert’s ascension to the throne, like Warwick was for Edward IV. Both Edward and Robert, while brilliant soldiers and warm affable men were indolent and promiscuos, leading a scheming, fractured court. Both of them also left their thrones to illegitimate children, although Ned discovers it and Warwick didn’t. Both Cersei and Elizabeth Gray saw Ned and Warwick as enemies. Ned was, first and foremost, a traditional baron and so was Warwick. And both died a traitor’s death, though at least Warwick did not had his head on a pike (just his naked body exposed for three days, but that is much better than what others -like York- got).

    Then there is the issue of Sansa and Anne, the great heiresses of the North. Sansa is bethroted to a cruel prince and narrowly escapes the actual wedding, being discarded once her father lost his power. Anne did marry her prince (who might not have been as cruel as legend tells us, of course) and we do not know what would have happened to her if Lancaster had won. I doubt she would have been of much use. Anne was held by Clarence, who was supposed to take care of her and ends up hiding in a cookshop, disguised as a maid. Sansa is held by a man obsessed with her mother, disguised as a natural daughter who serves her own aunt. And both Sansa and Anne end up marrying the youngest of three royal brothers, who has an eye on her impressive fortune. I see similarities between Gloucester and Tyrion: the body that does comply with what was expected of them (a piece of propaganda, in Richard’s case), the brilliant mind, the bravery and the lack of love from one parent (again, propaganda in Richard’s case).

    I am probably reading this all wrong, of course, but I read your article and I just had to say this.

    • Reply November 23, 2013

      Jaime Adair

      This is a really quick reply. I’ll reply more tomorrow morning. First of all thanks for the great comment and thanks for reading.
      Second (to you and anyone else reading), don’t ever feel bad about disagreeing with me or any of the posts I’ve written. GRRM has never come out and said, “I based this character on so-and-so.” He has, however, said that he likes to mix it up. I think many characters are blends.
      But the entire fifteenth century seems to repeat itself over and over – same stuff, different people (to a certain extent). Same themes and issues keep coming up.
      I love comments like yours – I think they’re great. I wish people would post them more often and then other readers would reply and we’d all discuss them.
      I don’t have a secret decoder ring or answer key or anything (obviously 🙂 ) – and after I write the articles I often read something that makes me go “oh whoops! GRRM might have been basing that on this…”
      So I certainly don’t have all the answers and I’m not an “authority” – I just write the posts be ause I love history and trying to “decode” GoT really challenges me to read more, learn more, etc – and it gives me an excuse to spend time reading and watching GoT. 😉 Bottom line nobody should feel bad about coming up with their own ideas, debating, commenting, etc.
      But at any rate, thanks for commenting! I’ll read your comment tomorrow morning in more depth. I only skimmed it quickly because it is late here in Boston, MA. But I just wanted to say thanks right away.

    • Reply November 24, 2013

      Jaime Adair

      These are really interesting comments. Thanks so much! I hope other people enjoy them as much as I did.

      ****SPOILER ALERT*****
      Anne & Sansa
      Your comment on Anne and Sansa made me have one of those “OH no! What was I thinking??” moments. So I definitely agree with you – the parallels are too strong. People have mentioned the Anne and Sansa connection before, but sometimes I can be a little dim and I don’t see it right away. What really clinched it for me was your comment that both Sansa and Anne were disguised – one as a daughter, the other as a maid. (D’oh on my part. :>) )

      Warwick & Ned
      Your comment is really compelling. I’m not sure that I completely agree. I think that’s because I see Warwick as a villain and Ned as the ultimate hero. Granted this is a matter of point of view. In GoT, we see things through Ned’s eyes. But, historians rarely attempt to see things through Warwick’s eyes. Generally, Warwick is condemned as man who betrayed king and kin. But, in my opinion, you could argue Edward IV did Warwick a real disservice in some ways.

      I see a lot of parallels between Ned and Richard of York, whose head was put on a spike. There’s something else that happens, which clinches it for me, but I’m going to save this for a post when it happens on the show. It’s too much of a spoiler I think. :>)

      I think GRRM might see Warwick as a villain. In the Game of Thrones world, betrayal is the worst sin you can commit and the GoT universe punishes anyone who betrays another – or breaks a promise – harshly. Does this mean GRRM hates treachery? I don’t know. But, I suspect he sees Warwick as a traitor because of the following:

      I see traces of Balon Greyjoy in Warwick. Warwick’s early days don’t get discussed enough in history books, in my opinion, but a sometimes overlooked point about him was his seafaring expertise. He was famed for his skill as captain “the Captain of Calais” and also accused of piracy in the 1450s.

      I think GRRM brings the darker side of Warwick to life in Balon. The reason I think this is because of the parallels between Balon, Theon, & Robb Stark and Warwick, Clarence, & Edward IV. Warwick was a father figure (“spiritual father”) to Clarence who led him to betray his own brother, Edward IV. Conversely, Balon was the literal father of Theon and Balon’s actions led Theon to betray his “spiritual brother,” Robb Stark.

      R3 & Tyrion
      I agree with this one actually. I didn’t see it at first but people pointed it out and then I had a “D’oh!” moment. I haven’t written about it yet because I’m waiting for the show to catch up. (Generally, I try to keep pace (or not go beyond) the show because it is hard too gauge where people might be in terms of reading the books.) I do think there are traces of Anthony Woodville’s scholarliness in Tyrion and traces of Anthony Woodville’s chivalry/jousting in Jaime Lannister. BTW, in one of the comments on this blog, possibly below the Tyrion post, somebody else pointed out that Tyrion resembles a famous dwarf, which is really interesting!

      (BTW, I’m going to add a spoiler alert to your comment – I hope you don’t mind.) Thanks for the great comments!!

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