House of the Dragon & Oxford Castle and Prison – whats the connection?

6th Sep, 2022

It’s well known that Gorge RR Martin bases his iconic characters from Game of Thrones on historical inspirations. We think his new series, House of the Dragon, is no different.

Empress Matilda, who famously defended our very own Oxford Castle, has a lot, and we mean A LOT of similarities to the star of the new House of the Dragon Series, the dragon rider Princess Rhaenyra.

If you haven’t checked out House of the Dragon, but love your Oxford Castle history (like us), then you might recognize some familiar traits of our famous defender with the star of the show.

A princess stands in front of a dragon in red dress
Princess Rhaenyra stands in front of her dragon Syrax

Is Princess Rhaenyra inspired by Empress Matilda?

You decide for yourself! Here is a list of similar events and facts that apply equally to both women (there may be minor spoilers ahead):

  • Both of them were made heirs by their royal fathers in a society that wasn’t too happy with the idea of a female ruler. They also had large groups of the nobility declare loyalty to them while their father was still alive.
  • Both started a devastating civil war with their claim to the throne. The Dance of Dragons is also suspiciously similar to the English Anarchy in other ways.
  • Both were married twice and always married for politics.
  • Both came from the ruling elite of their countries; the Normans for Matilda, and the Targaryens for Rhaenyra.
  • Despite both declaring themselves Queen at some point, both had their triumph snatched away from them.
  • Both ultimately lost and failed to become Queen of England/Westeros… BUT the future royal line did come from their children and grandchildren.
  • Both were competing for the most powerful position in the land at a time when women were considered second class to their male counterparts. However, both also proved themselves resourceful and brilliant leaders.
St. Georges Tower
St Georges Tower where Empress Matilda lived while defending Oxford Castle from her rival Stephan.

Is House of the Dragon inspired by The Anarchy?

George RR Martin is famous for basing his characters on real people from history, with Tywin Lannister being lased on Edward Longshanks, and Robert Baratheon appearing very similar to Henry VIII. The author says the series is based on The War of the Roses. There are many parallels between House Stark and House Lannister to The Lancastrians and Yorkists. George RR Martin has also said in Entertainment Weekly that House of the Dragon is based on the English Anarchy. An important period of Oxford Castle’s story.

During this chaotic period, multiple noble families competed over the crown of England. This led to a breakdown in law and order, and a lot of violence, hence the name Anarchy. Empress Matilda was one of the strongest claimants. However, as a woman, she faced opposition from many nobles who didn’t like the idea of a queen over a king.

An image of Queen Matilda from a Medieval Manuscript
Empress Matilda, sometimes called Queen Maud, is depicted in “The History of England” written by the monks of St Albian’s.

Oxford castle has written a good deal about Empress Matilda. Her story of a daring escape from a castle under siege is a thrilling part of our castle’s history.

If you want to learn about the real history behind House of the Dragon you can explore more of Oxford Castles’ history on our other blog pages. Or book to come see Oxford Castle and Prison yourself.

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