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”).
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.
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…
By Jamie Adair