Daenerys as Henry VII

daenerys-dragon-birth

After seeing the phenomenal ending of this week’s Game of Thrones episode (“And Now His Watch is Ended” Season 3, Episode 4), I find myself wondering once again if Daenerys Targaryen is an incarnation of Henry VII?

Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty and father of Henry VIII, was the unlikeliest conqueror when his soldiers slew Richard III and Henry overthrew the Yorkist dynasty. Through his Lancastrian mother, Henry Tudor had a watery claim to the throne. After somebody, possibly Richard III, smashed in Henry VI’s skull in the Tower of London, the fourteen year old Henry Tudor became the  Lancastrian claimant. However, he was living in exile, often in fear for his life, in France.

Like Daenerys, Henry had lived most of his life across our Narrow Sea, also known as the English Channel. Just as Robert Baratheon would have loved to have killed Daenerys and snuffed out any possible pretenders, so too would Edward IV liked to have eliminated Henry Tudor and ensured a peaceful Yorkist succession. However, Henry Tudor was not a major concern for Edward, who dismissively referred to Henry as “the imp.” With no access to funds and no army, it seemed unlikely he could take on that great warrior king, Edward IV, who was never defeated in battle.

henry-vii

Henry VII: the cagey conqueror Edward IV dismissed as “the imp.”

However, once Edward IV died and Richard III overthrew Edward’s heirs, the noble families became uneasy about Richard’s rule. Some families may have questioned the legitimacy of Richard’s rule or been outraged by the fate of Edward’s sons. Others may have turned against the House of York after years of silent repressed fury as Edward and Richard tampered with their inheritance, which would destroy their legacies – the only thing worth dying for in that age. (As Cersei put it to her father in tonight’s episode, Tywin loved his legacy “so much more than your actual children.”)

Ultimately, the rumors that Richard III poisoned his wife to marry his niece, Elizabeth of York, may ultimately have poisoned his well of northern loyalty. However, despite his followers’ betrayal, Richard might have kept his throne if he hadn’t rashly charged into battle, unaccompanied and unprotected, to attack Henry Tudor.

coat-arms-Henry-VII

Henry VII’s coat of arms, which shows the red dragon on the left. Source: Creative Commons via Wikipedia, created by
Sodacan.”

Signs that Daenerys is a reborn Henry VII? Both Henry VII and Daenerys were, arguably, the rightful heir to the throne. Both Henry VII and Daenerys used the dragon as their emblem. However, in Daenerys’ case she had the blood of the dragon whereas Henry VII claimed descent from King Arthur whose battle standard was a red dragon.

Just as Daenerys had disaffected followers (Jorah, Selmy) join her from Westeros, Henry had men discontent with Richard’s rule join him in Paris. Like Daenerys’ followers would flatter her by saying the Westerosi cry for their rightful queen, so did Henry’s followers say he could count on the English people’s support. Likewise, both Daenerys and Henry’s supporters included men who provided the military leadership they both lacked. Just as Daenerys had Barristan Selmy, the former Kingsguard commander, Henry had the Earl of Oxford, a Lancastrian military leader who escaped Richard III’s clutches and fled to serve Henry in Paris.

Like Daenerys, Henry Tudor had limited funds. While Daenerys obtains her money by appropriating the fake golden treasures of the treacherous Xaro Xhoan Daxos, Henry’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, was extremely wealthy. However, she had no way to send Henry funds when he was in exile.

In tonight’s episode, Daenerys raised troops by “purchasing” and then freeing mercenary slave soldiers. Henry VII had 2000 French mercenaries in his army of roughly 5000 men. If Charles VIII of France hadn’t wanted to cause trouble for the Yorkists, who slaughtered his godfather the Lancastrian Prince of Wales, Henry Tudor may never have raised those troops.

As we watch the gathering storm across the Narrow Sea, I can’t help but wonder if Daenerys will triumph like Henry Tudor once did.

Read More, Learn More

The Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn

By

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."

20 Comments

  • Reply April 23, 2013

    Martine

    I always look forward to your blog,following an episode. I’m fascinated by the WOTR’s historical source parallells you draw. This week I was blown away by Daenerys’ whole ‘fiery vengeance’ magnificence~ so I was kind of wrapped up in a ‘Boudicca’ comparison, but when I read this week’s blog I had one of those ‘Ahh of COURSE..’ moments ! Love this blog, absolutely love it. x

    • Reply April 25, 2013

      jamie-adair

      Thanks!!! That is very sweet of you! Daenerys is not one of my favorite characters, but I loved this week’s ending and, as a result, she is really growing on me. I think a lot of George RR Martin’s characters draw from multiple historical sources and she may well have touches of Boudicca in her as well.

      I do think Daenerys could have touches of Margaret Beaufort in her. I believe Margaret used to sign her name Margaret R and some, especially Margaret herself, would argue that she had just as strong a claim as Henry. I originally wondered if George RR Martin was giving Margaret her due by making the invading/conquering character a woman. But, I could go either way on that one.

      Thank you for your readership and your kind comments and support, Martine!

  • Reply December 18, 2013

    Cathrine

    I’am studying medieaval german literature and culture and writing my master thesis now, some points in your blogs are more eyes-opening than the majority of academic articles and books we read. Thank you so much and can’t wait for your next blogs!

    • Reply December 18, 2013

      Jaime Adair

      Wow!!! I think that is the best compliment I’ve ever received! Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.
      Please keep reading, keep commenting, and tell your friends. Thanks for reaching out! This was a lovely compliment.

    • Reply December 18, 2013

      Jaime Adair

      Also, best of luck and best wishes on your thesis! That’s wonderful and what an interesting area of study.

  • […] For another look at Daenerys and historic figures; check out her comparison to Henry VII: here. […]

  • Reply May 10, 2014

    Kris

    Excellent comparison. Also Henry 7th was Welsh, our flag today carries the red dragon. Valerian actually sounds like welsh too. When Henry 7th landed in wales he gathered a large army rallying town after town under the red dragon banner.

    • Reply May 12, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      Thanks for the kind words. Also, thanks for the link. I will definitely look at it!

  • Reply May 10, 2014

    Kris

  • […] History Behind Game of Thrones […]

  • […] History Behind Game of Thrones […]

  • Reply December 16, 2014

    Edgar

    i love your articles but honestly rather than Dany being Henry, i see Aegon as being inspired based on Henry VII. i thought i read somewhere that GRRM had said Dany is based on various historical figures. one of the impo characters shes based on are Elizabeth I, and Lawrence of Arabia among others. Elizabeth I: as a young child she was subdued and lived in fear of her “mad” sister much like Dany did with her brother. she was considered to be extremely beautiful and many men wanted her hands but as the years went by, she became more and more intimidating to men. again this is also seen with Dany. Elizabeth was surrounded by many councillors who tried to take advantage of her youth but in the end she did finally have one advisor who became her right hand and did all background ruling in her name. Dany has also had her share of advisors who did not know how to play the game of ruling but with the way GOT is progressing, its quite clear that Tyrion will soon become her primary advisor and the “hand of the queen”. and of course we cant forget Elizabeth’s love affairs which again match with Dany’s. Finally and probably most importantly, Dany is seen as the one character in GOT who has shown extreme open-mindedness to those of different cultures and backgrounds; and loved to learn from them. this is something that also defined Elizabeth and set her apart from many monarchs in England. Lawrence of Arabia: was the inspiration for Dany’s characteristic as “breaker of chains” and its quite obvious why this is the case; the problems Dany faces with her identity also matches those Lawrence faced throughout his life. she also seems to share Lawrence’s disturbing satisfaction at seeing her enemies killed (not that i have anything against it since those she killed do deserve the worst death possible). According to other fans, Dany’s identity of Mother/Mhysa, the miracle of her giving “birth” to dragons, and her love for the poor is based on the Virgin Mary. I personally find Dany’s similarities with Henry Tudor to be rather superficial. Henry didnt care about the poor, he had no concept of innocence and didnt mind slaying children (something Dany is extremely against), he was also very standoffish and dull whilst Dany has been described as charming and vibrant. Henry had a very strict mindset and refused to accept different ideas that were thrown at him; which is much unlike Dany who loves to learn of new thoughts and ideas. Just a side note Emilia Clarke (actress playing Dany on GOT), was told to watch Elizabeth I and Lawrence of Arabia by the producers and the writers when preparing herself for the role 😉

    • Reply December 19, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      First of all, I should say thanks for writing and welcome!
      >>”Just a side note Emilia Clarke (actress playing Dany on GOT), was told to watch Elizabeth I and Lawrence of Arabia by the producers and the writers when preparing herself for the role.”
      Oh that’s very interesting. Danielle Alesi actually wrote an article about Dany and Elizabeth I here: http://history-behind-game-of-thrones.com/tudors/daenerys-as-elizabeth-i But Lawrence of Arabia never occurred to me. (IMO, although it may not come across this way initially, I don’t think any one historical figure inspired any of the major characters. I think they tend to be composites and have their own traits too from GRRM’s imagination.)

  • Reply June 26, 2015

    Chas D.

    You know what? I was recently rewatching Gunpowder, Treason & Plot (a miniseries about Mary Queen of Scots and James I), and I just had an illumination while watching it that a lot of the issues that Daenerys faces (especially in Mereen) are roughly akin to the issues that Mary Queen of Scots faced.

    Martin has said that he doesn’t do strict translations of historical people but instead mixes and matches parts of them like a historical blender.

    Something to explore in a future article, perhaps? 😉

  • Reply January 7, 2016

    Anonymous

    Very interesting, very intriguing and ultimately very plausible. One complaint though!

    “Both Henry VII and Daenerys were, arguably, the rightful heir to the throne.”

    Henry VII could never be considered “rightful” heir. HIs claim was so weak, almost to the point of there being no legitimate claim.

    • Reply January 24, 2016

      Jamie Adair

      Excellent point. I wrote this article very early on and I may have been pushing the parallels a little too aggressively.

    • Reply January 25, 2016

      Chas D.

      Agreed. Henry VII had more of a legitimate claim to the French Throne, than he did the English.

      • Reply February 2, 2016

        Jamie Adair

        French throne? Really? I’ve never heard that before.

        • Reply February 3, 2016

          Chas D.

          Had the French not adopted Salic Law, of course. After all, his grandmother was Catherine of Valois.

          • February 19, 2016

            Jamie Adair

            Right, so his great grandfather was Charles VI (aka the Mad King). Of course, I hadn’t thought of that before.

Leave a Reply