Game of Thrones historical inspirations: Who is the inspiration for Ned Stark?

Many Game of Thrones characters are inspired by real people in history. Who did George R.R. Martin look at for the inspiration for Ned Stark.
Los Angeles Premiere Of Sony Pictures' "Knights Of The Zodiac" - Arrivals
Los Angeles Premiere Of Sony Pictures' "Knights Of The Zodiac" - Arrivals / Phillip Faraone/GettyImages

Sean Bean brought Ned Stark to life in Game of Thrones. The character, and the series, is based on George R.R. Martin’s book series A Song of Ice and Fire. This entire book has taken inspiration from real English history. It shouldn’t be surprising then that the individual characters have, as well.

We’re taking a look at Ned Stark, who emerged as the main protagonist at the start of the series. Of course, fans of Bean will know that he doesn’t tend to live long in shows or movies. So, it isn’t that surprising when he ends up dead by the end of the first season.

His character’s storyline is very similar to a Duke of York in English history. We’re heading back to the Wars of the Roses for this one.

Ned Stark in Game of Thrones is Richard, Duke of York

We can look at Richard, Duke of York for inspirations for Ned Stark. While there are also some similarities to Richard III of England, it’s actually Edward IV and Richard III’s father where we see more inspiration.

Richard, Duke of York was the heir to Henry VI of England. Also known as Richard Plantagenet, he was set to be the king had Henry and Margaret of Anjou not had children. In the end, they had a son, who became the heir. Yet, when Henry VI struggled with his mental health, it was Richard who ended up being the Protector of the Realm.

This man was an influential part of England, with large holdings in the north of England. Sound familiar? He was also a courageous knight, who looked to do the right thing for the country. He pulled himself into the Wars of the Roses to support his son’s fight for the throne, but part of that was due to a connection through his wife’s lineage and because Henry VI proved to be not a great king considering his madness.

Familial inspiration for the Game of Thrones character

We can also look at Richard and Ned’s families to see some inspiration. While in terms of siblings, there are no similarities, we can look at parentage. We know little about Ned’s parents, but we know Rickard Stark died by being burned alive after Aerys Targaryen ordered him to ride south to answer for his son Brandon’s actions when it came to getting Lyanna back.

As for Richard’s father, he was involved in the Southampton Plot in 1415 in an attempt to overthrown Henry V of England. It failed, and Richard, Duke of Cambridge, was executed.

Richard, Duke of York was betrayed by those close to him

We all know how things ended for Ned. He agreed to answer to crimes that he didn’t arguably commit. He didn’t believe that Joffrey was Robert’s son, and that would make him illegitimate for the throne. He confronted Cersei about this, giving her a chance to admit to it. However, Cersei was one step ahead of Ned and had loyalty in the south.

By the way, Richard and Margaret did not get along. Not at all. It’s not surprising then to find out Cersei and Ned didn’t get along.

It wasn’t surprising to see a plot to turn against Ned. He ended up executed despite being promised to live and have a chance to take the black instead. He was unfairly executed.

There is some inspiration from real history. Richard, Duke of York and his son, Edmund, were tricked into believing some in the north were loyal to them. Richard’s army was defeated at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. Richard was actually killed in battle.

There is a rumor that Richard was mocked, given a crown of bulrushes, and executed after a fake trial. It’s not clear what actually happened. He was definitely executed at some point as while his body was buried in Pontefract, his head was placed on a spike for the Lancastrian army to carry around.

The end of Ned Stark could have actually been inspired by Edward IV’s father-in-law, another Richard. This one was Richard Woodville, who fought for Edward against Lancastrian forces in the 1460s. Richard was captured by Lancastrian forces, along with his son John, and was given a show trial before being unfairly executed.

There are certainly plenty of historical inspirations throughout Game of Thrones. When it comes to Ned Stark, most of his inspiration comes from Richard, Duke of York.

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