Longshanks and the Lion: Edward I of England and Tywin Lannister

tywin-lannister-edward-I

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!

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The Lions of England on the left and the Lannister lions on the right. (Lannister Lions (c) HBO.)

Early Years

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.

Kevan_and_Tywin

Kevan and Tywin Lannister. (c) HBO.

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)[1]. Similarly, like Tytos, Henry was faced with opposition from his vassals which ultimately erupted in the Second Barons’ War of 1264-67.

HenryIII

Henry III at his coronation.

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.

Montfort_Evesham

The brutal death and dismemberment of Simon de Montfort by Edward’s soldiers at the Battle of Evesham. (You can see de Montfort hacked to pieces in the center of the image.)

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.

Appearance

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!).

tywin-longshanks-from-braveheart

Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister and Patrick McGoohan as Edward I in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. Images: HBO, Paramount (respectively).

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[2].

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).

Family

eleanor-castille

Eleanor of Castille

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.

QueenEEleanorCross-northampton

One of the twelve crosses Edward I erected to honor his wife Eleanor after her death.

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!

‘Reign’

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Tywin Lannister chairing a meeting of the Small Council – overseeing all the important issues facing the realm. Image: (c) HBO.

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.

Medieval_parliament_edward

This 16th-century illustration presents an imagined episode of Edward I presiding over Parliament. (The scene also includes Alexander III of Scotland and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd of Wales flanking Edward — even though this never actually occurred.

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.

roose bolton-betryal

Roose Bolton and Catelyn Stark moments before Catelyn uncovers Roose’s betrayal. (c) HBO.

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.

longshanks

Edward I – the greatest monarch in Medieval England

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.

[1] 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

[2] M. Prestwich, Plantagenet England: 1225-1307, (2nd Edition, Oxford), p. 177.

Tom Pert

Tom Pert is working on a PhD in medieval history at the University of Oxford. He recently completed a Masters Degree in Renaissance, Reformation and Early Modern Studies at the University of Birmingham (UK) focusing on 16th-17th Century Court Politics and the English Civil War. He has sworn a secret allegiance to House Lannister.

17 Comments

  • Reply September 8, 2015

    Starxist-Leninist

    Hi, first off, just wanna say I love this blog – pretty much the only ASOIAF discussion place I’ve found with any well-researched, fleshed-out historical analysis, so this being the first comment I’ve made here I just wanted to congratulate the contributors.

    But back to Tywin, I’ve heard the Edward I parallels before. Obviously no ASOIAF character is a perfect analogue of an IRL historical figure, and I think there’s a difference in political approach. I’ve not seen much of Tywin’s relationship with commoners, but as far as I’m aware he’s not so popular. Edward managed to curry popular support by scapegoating, in particular in fomenting anti-Semitic sentiment breaking out into pogroms and culminating in the expulsion of Jews.

    I think the real-life analogue that could do with more discussion would be John of Gaunt. The most facile interpretation says ‘Stark v Lannister = York v Lancaster,’ so I think this is where to start in comparing House Lannister to the House of Lancaster.

    The parallels are (and I have to admit I’m terrible at fleshing out a line of argument) they were both far away the richest people in their realm, immensely ambitious and governed primarily by greed, and held sway over incompetent (tbf Richard II was a child when he succeeded the throne, but we all know how his reign turned out) kings, and they both fathered usurpers in a manner of speaking.

    • Reply September 15, 2015

      Jamie Adair

      >>Hi, first off, just wanna say I love this blog – pretty much the only ASOIAF discussion place I’ve found with any well-researched, fleshed-out historical analysis, so this being the first comment I’ve made here I just wanted to congratulate the contributors.
      Aw, thank you very much. That’s really sweet of you. I’m very lucky to have such amazing and brilliant contributors. Frankly, it is an honor to host their articles — especially since it is a long time since I personally have written any decent, in-depth features.
      The John of Gaunt idea is very compelling. I don’t know as I (personally) will get to it anytime soon because I have this enormous backlog of unfinished articles to finish. But, I’m not ruling it out and John of Gaunt is a fascinating character.
      You raise a really interesting point here: “held sway over incompetent (tbf Richard II was a child when he succeeded the throne,” I hadn’t made that connection before! V.cool.

      • Reply November 24, 2015

        Starxist-Leninist

        Hi, posting here because the forum’s down. It’d be great if that could be got up and running for all the people like me who think they’re onto something interesting but don’t really have enough subject knowledge to write a full article.

        The subject in question here is the black death and whether the contributors think the Walkers are its ASOIAF analogue. The plague is undoubtedly one of the most important episodes in understanding late medieval European history, which made it seem odd when I started watching (I admit, I’m a not-book-reading philistine) that it didn’t factor into Martin’s fantastical allegory of the decay of feudalism.

        Then I noticed the mortified way they talk about it: death is coming – a great voracious plague swallowing up everything it passes. Sounds rather like the black death, wouldn’t you agree?

        As always, there’s loads of ideas on this topic swirling round without merging into something more cogent, but I think there’s an interesting points to be explored about first, the presentation of the plague as a supernatural invading army and the psychology of fourteenth century Europe in the midst of an epidemic; and second, the endgame of the saga.

        Out of the first point in particular I think it’s worth exploring ideology and the existence of magic in ASOIAF – magic objectively exists in this fictional world and yet empirical scepticism is pretty widespread. Conversely in the real world, magic was no more objectively real six hundred years ago than today, yet there are a host of superstitions since displaced were held as sheer indisputable truth.

        • Reply December 16, 2015

          Jamie Adair

          I could easily put the forum back up; I meant to take down the link. But I’ve never been great at moderating it or seeding threads. (I tend to write articles when I have an idea I guess so my ideas get used up that way. 🙂 ) But it wouldn’t be hard for me to put it back up. I could try it as an experiment. The forum software I picked isn’t great, so it makes it a pain for new users to set up accounts. (I probably should have used WordPress’s forum software. But I didn’t really know much about forums when I set it up.)

          I strongly agree with your point. It is gratifying to hear somebody else articulate it. I believe that Martin recreates the 14th century Great Medieval crisis (The Great Famine, Black Death, etc.) symbollically through his fantasy elements. I’ve written a few articles, buried deep in this website, about that. E.g., Like you say, the Black Death is anthropomorphized as a “white” death (the white walkers) — the threat looming while the kings wage their vainglorious succession wars. Like in the fourteenth century, the kings should be paying attention when the climate changes and the LIA begins (in ASOIAF when the long winter approaches and food is already low due to war). The ASOIAF leaders have a bad case of fiddling while Rome burns or not keeping their eye on the ball.

          Frankly, I’m glad Martin made such a large symbolic allusion to the Great Medieval Crisis because the cavalier irresponsibilty of those fourteenth-century leaders makes me angry just thinking about it. I might be being a little harsh — and granted logistics played a huge role (e.g., the trade routes IRT grain transport) — but there was a good deal of gross negligence going on too.

          I think this is the major point of the succession wars in ASOIAF. The machiavellian maneouvers are a deliberate (symbolic or meta) distraction — we get caught up in them the way medieval kings did and our eye isn’t on the ball either. Martin recreates the kings’ behavior in a meta way.

          • January 10, 2016

            Starxist-Leninist

            I think it’d be great to get a forum up ready for the Season 6 premiere. I reckon best to launch it at a time when we can get the most traffic

          • February 2, 2016

            Jamie Adair

            It’s not a bad thought. I could look at some better forum software – eg like WP’s natively supported forum, so they account creation is less painful. I don’t promise anything because I am supposed to be working on a book. I had a hard time with ideas for subject areas before. Any ideas? There are so many great ASOIAF/GoT forums already on Reddit, etc. Before I was trying to think of subject areas that were unique to both ASoiaf/GoT and history or maybe Asoiaf/GoT and literary criticism, art, etc. Lately, I have been guving a lot of thought to less medieval and more modern parallels – e.g., peace and conflict.

          • February 16, 2016

            Watcher on the Couch

            For what they are worth here are a few suggestions for forum topics (with apologies if any of the ideas have already occurred somewhere else on the web); besides this blog I only habitually check out [well regarding anything pertaining to ASOIAF or GoT] Watchers on the Wall, Nerdalicious and IsWinterComing (the last one for a laugh really)). I did read something about the Black Dinner on Confessions of a Ci-Devant some time ago though.

            1. Changes one has liked or disliked in the translation of the story from the printed page to the screen (though Comic Book Girl 19 did something like that on YouTube for season 2 so iI can’t claim it’s my original idea) – as long as it is done in a polite and adult way.

            2. Thoughts as to who might be the younger more beautiful queen Maggi The Frog warned Cersei about (I guess it’s alright to mention that without spoiling since the show featured Maggi last season. Of course there is no guarantee that Maggi’s phrophecies will come true – though (in the show at least) Cersei is losing her children at an alarmingly fast rate.

            3. Who is more dangerous, Varys or Littlefinger, or is it a tie?

            4. Will Tyrion’s first wife reappear in the story (or have we already heard of her tangentially)?

            5. Possible links between GoT/ASOIAF with mythology (I know Jun has already done a feature some while back about Daenerys/Daenera).

          • February 19, 2016

            Jamie Adair

            Greeting Watcher… these are great ideas. I particularly like the GoT mythology idea and of course #3.

    • Reply September 15, 2015

      Watcher on the Couch

      Starxy, I think your post must have been being “moderated” when I made mine (my previous comment of 9 September that is) as it predates mine by one day – I didn’t “nick” your idea about John of Gaunt honest injun I didn’t. As I said in my previous comment it was the sheer ruthlessness of John of Gaunt that made me think of him as a possible inspiration for Tywin. It’s pretty well-known that Gaunt’s sometime mistress, later wife Katherine Swynford (nee de Roet) was the sister of Philippa, wife of Geoffrey Chaucer (and the name Geoffrey as was noted in one of the ‘name’ articles some time back is not a million miles away from Joffrey).

      The Nerdalicious blog (an Australian blog) which is maintained by Olga who sometimes contributes here has some articles on ASOIAF and GOT though it is not solely dedicated to them. I think Olga is still lying in a darkened room because of how the show treated Sansa and Ellaria and the Sand Snakes in their transition from the books in season 5 though (sorry Olga it’s not really my place to say what your thoughts are). Jun who has contributed here also has some articles on her website about ASOIAF (though ditto about lying in a darkened room for Jun – sorry Jun, again it’s not my place to guess your thoughts).

      • Reply February 18, 2016

        Starxist-Leninist

        Not sure why there’s no reply button next to your most recent comment, but it’s meant in response to that.

        I guess discussions on the adaptations are plentiful already. I think in terms of this site’s USP, it’s analysing ASOIAF in relation to IRL history. The contributors do a really good job of that, and good at interacting in the comments, but I’d like to see it a little more open and responsive. Like, someone poses an idea, and we all flesh it out collectively.

        So yeah, ideally for me, topics would be more discussion of character comparisons (e.g. the Earl of Warwick as Ned Stark, Tywin Lannister and Roose Bolton; the High Sparrow as Thomas Muentzer), comparisons of the state of society (general decay of feudal society in Europe), major events (e.g. the White Walkers as the Black Death, the Reformation (see Muentzer v Sparrow)).

        I think in terms of Maggie the Frog, what’s really interesting is the status of the Supernatural: magic is tangibly real in this universe, but everyone has a sceptical attitude; contrasted with the real medieval world where people believed in superstitions that genuinely weren’t there. Jacobin published a good article about that. But yeah, overall I think it’s a really clever way to make characters relatable.

        As for Varys v Baelish, I think the sharpest contradistinction is the Old World (Varys) vs the New (LF). I know 4/5 bugger all about Chinese history, but the 1/5 I do know is that a) that eunuchs were often at the highest tier of the state (something about not being a threat to the Emperor in a reproductive sense), and b) it was for centuries the most advanced civilisation in the world. Western Europe, however, began to catch up and surpass in the late middle ages. The advantages China had became a brake – being a vast and effectively centralised system compared to an incoherent patchwork of petty kingdoms with with the need to get the slightest advantage (worth noting that a lot of the early innovations came from Italy and Germany, the weakest nations in the sixteenth century).

        Bear in mind LF’s ‘Chaos is a ladder’ spiele. The modern world was indeed born out of chaos, strife, upheaval and catastrophe. In killing off 1/3 of European society across the board, the black death sharpened the contradictions of feudal society. In the space of a year, when one third of the labour force dies out, innovations like the printing press *had* to be made.

        As for Varys, I actually think he’s for real. I actually take him at his word in his scene with Ned, and in his scene with Tyrion in Pentos. It doesn’t seem to be a very popular opinion, but I think it’d be a cool swerve: create a fictional world where you can’t trust anybody and make the least trustworthy character the most just. Still, just or not, he’s still essentially conservative in disposition. He has a genuine desire for a steady and predictable upward curve for society which just isn’t possible.

        • Reply February 19, 2016

          Jamie Adair

          I absolutely love these ideas — and Watcher’s ideas! Okay, I’ll do it. It may not happen this weekend, but I will try to get it done before this season begins.

          I want to see if WordPress’ forum software is a little kinder about the user IDs. The last forum software that I used was a nightmare for people to create accounts with which is a major disincentive to new people joining and posting.

          I have thoughts about Varys and Baelish. But, I’m going to wait until the forum so we don’t start chatting about it here. :>) Thanks again for all of your enthusiasm. This is great! And, I think this will be a lot of fun.

        • Reply February 19, 2016

          Jamie Adair

          I also like the idea about making it more open and free form. What I don’t like about the comments is sometimes I feel like people are waiting for me to reply (which is understandable and fair) but that’s not really my dream. I want more of a group conversation, but the comment threads don’t necessarily loan themselves to that — and as everyone has experienced — the nesting feature is confusing (albeit necessary I think).

  • Reply September 9, 2015

    Watcher on the Couch

    Firstly, I’m glad that this blog hasn’t gone to the great weblog post in the sky. I had wondered if Jamie had become discouraged because there had been some misappropriating of her blog articles. It’s been mentioned on other threads that GRRM likes to use more than one source – I had noted the similarity between Tywin’s attachment to Joanna and Edward Longshanks to Eleanor of Castile. There is an area called Weeping Cross in my hometown and I was rather disappointed to find out it was not thus named because of an Eleanor Cross! Another person I had wondered about being a possible inspiration for Tywin (regarding the ruthless aspect at least) was John of Gaunt, though John of Gaunt did live openly with Katherine Swynford (whom he later married). I’m not sure if Tywin would have lived openly with a mistress. I know Shae was in Tywin’s bed at the end of season 4 of GoT (and that wasn’t a change from the books) though if the sixth book in the ASOIAF series is ever finished and released it’s possible there could be a twist as to how she got there. I’m sure the writer of this article is aware of the points I’ve made as he has a history degree but I just mentioned them in case a layperson happens upon the blog. I am grateful to the writer for providing an absorbing feature.

    • Reply September 15, 2015

      Jamie Adair

      Thanks Watcher. Sorry for the delayed reply. Yes, sadly, I am limping by with the odd article here and there. Hopefully, the copyright violations were extremely demoralizing, so I am hoping to get my wind back soon.
      I have wondered about John of Gaunt as well. E.g., the wealthiest lord in the country etc.
      Also, yes, I wholeheartedly agree. Tom did a fantastic job on this feature.

  • Reply September 9, 2015

    G Hiatt

    Thank you, this type of article is exactly why I joined this website.
    Although your allegiance to House Lannister is somewhat disturbing.
    [-_-]

  • Reply March 16, 2016

    darah tinggi

    The war of the Roses as I red and checked other article had a lot similarities with Game Of throne main story. Some might suggest that The war of the roses is the inspiration of the song of ice and fire Novel by George R Martin. Interestingly George Martin marvel the battle and the story in more interesting to be viewed and read. Great article indeed

  • Reply September 28, 2016

    T. S. Phillips

    I came late to Game of Thrones (season 2 was about to start.) I did not read the novels despite people saying I should when they came out. I was a Tolkienite from childhood and too much a purist I guess.

    I recognized John o’Gaunt the moment I saw Lannister. I would bet the portrait made some 150 years after his death was a primary source of his armor design, as well as his documented feats of arms throughout his actual lifetime and the fact he was the patriarch of the Lancasters and eventual Tudors, without ever having been king himself. And I assumed there were other threads from English history in there too.

    Not know the story at all, I assumed that Bran Stark would end up turning into a tyrant ala Richard IIIthe dwarf would end up being the Richard III character who eventually turns into a tyrant – his haircut and clothing also seem to be taken from actual portraiture. But then I thought the author might have flipped that source and was going to make the dwarfism stand as the deformity and HE would become the tyrant, which would be a good set up for the audience since we love him so much.

    But the later seasons did not pan out in either direction. But I am still expecting Jon Snow to end up as Henry Tudor, since they were Gaunt’s bastard line – even though they come from the Yorks in this fictional account.

    While it makes sense to me that Lannister is Gaunt, I can easily see how Edward could also be a direct influence on the fictional character.

    You have presented a nice piece of reasoning.

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