Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterley Rock, Warden of the West, Hand of the King and (and my favourite character in the TV series) is often regarded as a reimagining of ‘The Kingmaker’ Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (1428-70). Certainly, if Robert’s Rebellion and the events preceding the books and TV series are assumed to represent the early stages of the Wars of the Roses, this is a fair comparison.
Both Warwick and Tywin were the most powerful noblemen in their respective kingdoms and they both used their position as the ‘power behind the throne’ to wed their daughters into the royal family. Indeed, Tywin married Cersei to the newly-crowned King Robert Baratheon and Warwick arranged the marriages of his daughters Isabel and Anne to George, duke of Clarence (younger brother of Edward IV) and Edward, Prince of Wales (son of Henry VI).
That’s where the similarities end. There is another figure in Medieval Europe who shares far more similarities with Tywin Lannister: Edward I of England. Indeed, when you examine their formative years, appearance and character, accomplishments and legacy, it’s clear that the only difference between these two figures is that Edward actually wore the crown whereas Tywin was king in all but name.
Even the Coats of Arms for House Plantagenet and House Lannister are similar!
As Tywin’s brother Kevan states: “Our own father was gentle and amiable, but so weak his bannermen mocked him in their cups. Some saw fit to defy him openly…At court they japed of toothless lions”. This description of Tytos Lannister seems to match that of Edward’s father, Henry III.
Henry III is described by David Carpenter and many other scholars as having a pious, amiable, easy-going, and sympathetic personality. Henry is widely believed to have been unashamedly honest and unafraid to show his emotions (even weeping during some religious sermons). Similarly, like Tytos, Henry was faced with opposition from his vassals which ultimately erupted in the Second Barons’ War of 1264-67.
In 1258, a group of seven barons under the leadership of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, forced Henry to agree to the Provisions of Oxford, an agreement which effectively abolished the absolutist Anglo-Norman monarchy in England and gave power to a council of twenty-four nobles to govern the country. However, in 1261 Henry obtained a Papal Bull absolving him from all oaths and agreements relating to the Provisions and, like Tywin, the young prince had to watch as his father’s vassals rose up in rebellion against him and (after a brief period when he sided with the rebels) Edward began to take control of the situation in 1262 to protect his father’s royal rights.
The baron’s revolt was initially successful; the barons even captured Henry III and held him as a ‘figurehead’ king. Edward ultimately put down the revolt by leading the royalist troops to a series of victories. In August 1265, Henry was rescued from his captors at the Battle of Evesham, where de Montfort and many leading rebels were also killed.
The sheer ferocity with which Edward put down rebellions both before and during his reign mirrors that used by Tywin — although Edward stopped short of eradicating entire family bloodlines as Tywin did with House Reyne of Castamere. Furthermore, as with his fictional counterpart, the fact that Edward’s formative years were marked by his father’s humiliation and rebel uprisings may explain his somewhat severe attitude to rebellions as King.
According to the evidence of contemporary accounts, it also appears that the physical appearance of Edward I was similar to that of Tywin Lannister (although Edward lacked the rather impressive sideburns of his fictional counterpart in the book series!).
Both stood over six feet tall and cut very imposing figures. Indeed, following the opening of Edward’s tomb in the nineteenth century, it has been estimated that he was six feet and two inches tall. Not only was this a very great height in thirteenth-century England, but it also supports the idea that his sobriquet of ‘Longshanks’ was derived from his long limbs. This would only have added to the King’s intimidating appearance and many sources mention an incident in 1295 when the Dean of St. Pauls (who intended to challenge him about the high levels of taxation) collapsed and died of fright once in Edward’s presence.
Also, like Lord Tywin, Edward is believed to have had curly blond hair in his youth which then turned white with age (similar to Charles Dance’s appearance in the TV series).
When one looks at the family life of both men, there are also many similarities. For example, it is clear that both were dedicated to their wives who predeceased them. Indeed, Edward is a rarity among medieval English kings because there is no record of him having any extramarital affairs or fathering any bastard offspring (unlike Henry I, Henry II, Edward III, Edward IV, etc.). His marriage to Eleanor of Castile was, by all accounts, one of tremendous love and devotion.
The same is true of Tywin’s marriage to his cousin, Joanna Lannister. His wedding day was one of the few days that he openly smiled and, after Joanna died giving birth to Tyrion, he never smiled again.
Edward went into a similar state of mourning after his wife Eleanor died in November 1290, and he erected the series of twelve lavishly decorated stone monuments called the ‘Eleanor Crosses’ to mark the route taken when the Queen’s body was transported back to London from where she died in Lincoln. Edward later married Margaret in 1299, sister of Philip IV of France. Initially, this was solely for dynastic and diplomatic reasons: Edward only had one living male heir, and he needed to make peace with the French in order to pursue his war against Scotland. Despite the forty-year age difference between the couple, the marriage developed into one of love and happiness and, like Joanna Lannister, Margaret was able to influence her husband and calm his wrath to save many people stern punishments.
Also, just as Tywin had a (to put it mildly) difficult relationship with his son, Tyrion, Edward I had a turbulent relationship with his son and heir, Edward of Caenarfon (the future Edward II). Indeed, both of these offspring attracted considerable criticism from contemporaries for their behaviour, particularly fraternising with labourers and members of the lower classes. Also, like Tyrion, Edward of Caenarfon’s letters show that the prince had a quirky sense of humour; he delighted in sending friends ‘unsatisfactory animals’ (such as disobedient horses and lazy and slow hunting dogs) as gifts!
Another similarity between Edward and Tywin is that both took a very active interest in national politics and the day-to-day practices of ruling a country. Certainly, Tywin’s criticisms of Robert Baratheon only attending a handful of small council meetings in seventeen years cannot be applied to Edward. Indeed, in the Victorian era, Edward was widely credited with helping England to develop parliamentary and constitutional government. Although such an interpretation has been somewhat challenged in the last century, historians generally agree that Edward’s political skills and his focus on law and justice are worthy of considerable praise.
Although this article will not be discussing Edward’s campaigns in Wales and Scotland (because that topic would require an entire article to itself!), and Tywin’s conduct during the War of the Five Kings is similar to that of Edward in Scotland. Edward’s brutality led to his legacy as the ‘Hammer of the Scots.’
Incidentally, William Wallace’s betrayal by a fellow Scotsman (Sir John de Meredith), which resulted in Wallace’s death at English hands, mirrors Roose Bolton’s treachery against his fellow Northmen and the ‘King in the North’, Robb Stark.
Modern vs. Contemporary Opinion
Tywin Lannister is a figure who, like Edward I, is extremely divisive: some people view him as a cruel, unforgiving and heartless manipulator while others (including myself) regard him as a shrewd politician produced by a ‘chivalric’ society. Tywin is the finest player of the ‘Game of Thrones’ we have seen to date (except maybe for Littlefinger). There are certainly strong parallels that can be drawn with opinions of Edward I as an able, determined soldier and politician who (although not loved) was certainly feared, respected and an ideal king for such a turbulent age.
In summary, it is clear that Tywin Lannister shares far more similarities with King Edward I than have previously been acknowledged. As Lord Tywin said “any man who must say ‘I am the King’ is no true king at all” and both of these men proved this: in the words of Grand Maester Pycelle, “Lord Tywin wore no crown, yet he was all a King should be.” Although Edward wore the crown, his actions spoke louder than words and left no doubt in anyone’s mind about who held the power in England.
 D. Carpenter, The Reign of Henry III, (1996), p. 97; N. Vincent, The Holy Blood: King Henry III and the Westminster Blood Relic, (Cambridge, 2006), p. 7
 M. Prestwich, Plantagenet England: 1225-1307, (2nd Edition, Oxford), p. 177.