Game of Thrones inspiration: Who could Daenerys Targaryen be based on?

Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones may have been loosely based on the man who would bring an end to the Wars of the Roses in English history.

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones /

As you know Game of Thrones is packed with inspiration from real English history. A few characters have been inspired by real people, and we’re taking a look at the inspiration behind Daenerys Targaryen.

Daenerys was the younger sister of Viserys Targaryen, the man who wanted to take back the Iron Throne in Westeros. He and his sister grew up in Essos, and he needed to make deals to secure enough money and ships to sail across the Narrow Sea. Part of that meant marrying his sister to Drogo, the Kahl of the Dothraki.

It wasn’t a marriage of love, but it did turn into one. After Drogo’s death, Daenerys had to figure out a way to lead those who had chosen to follow her. She ended up building an army due to her movement through Essos and the releasing of slaves. It would all eventually lead her to Westeros, where she was finally able to take the Iron Throne.

Daenerys Targaryen is loosely based on Henry VII of England

The earlier storyline for Daenerys is very much based on the story of Henry VII of England. Henry Tudor was the son of Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond. His father died before he was born, and his mother was a staunch Lancastrian supporter.

Henry had a direct line to the throne through his mother’s side. She was an ancestor of John of Gaunt. There were still questions about Henry’s eligibility for the throne, but that wasn’t going to stop his mother’s beliefs that he should be king.

Henry had to flee England when Edward IV took the throne for the second time. He spent the rest of his childhood and adult life in France, where he trained with his uncle and they worked on raising an army. Meanwhile, in England, Margaret married Lord Stanley, a Yorkist who wasn’t all that loyal to his side.

Margaret convinced Henry to agree to marry Elizabeth of York should he become king. Lord Stanley agreed to fight for Henry, although during the Battle of Bosworth, there was a moment where it looked like Stanley would end up fighting for Richard III. This was a man of opportunity. I’m going to get to how this was used in Game of Thrones in another piece, as it was used in a particular battle during the show.

As you can see, Henry being raised in a different country would have led to some problems. Like Henry, Daenerys needed to raise an army from outside of the country. She then needed to work on gaining support from people in Westeros. That came through Jon Snow, who actually needed to see Daenerys to get something to defeat the White Walkers. While not the same circumstances, Jon and Daenerys striking a deal was similar to that of Henry and Elizabeth as a way to bring an end to the Wars of the Roses.

Had Daenerys and Jon ended up marrying, it would have combined Daenerys’s people and the north—and even beyond. Jon was a powerful ally for Daenerys to have, even if she didn’t want to admit that.

Where the similarities end for Daenerys and Henry in Game of Thrones

Of course, not everything from history could be used. There were a lot of differences between the characters. Henry wasn’t a direct heir to a fallen king. Daenerys was the daughter of Aerys Targaryen, and arguably the rightful heir to the throne via that side—okay, Jon was with how all that turned out, but that would have been harder to convince people. At times, Jon is more like Henry VII.

Henry Tudor never went mad. He didn’t burn the country to the ground, although he wasn’t the nicest king. He certainly manipulated and played a long game at times. Just look at his treatment of Catherine of Aragon after Arthur Tudor’s death.

Henry VII also didn’t build the army that Daenerys did before heading to Westeros. The only reason he succeeded at the Battle of Bosworth was due to his stepfather. Daenerys was able to take down Cersei with her own army and her dragon Drogon, once she found a way past the weapons on the gates of King’s Landing. Daenerys was a little better in strategy compared to Henry VII, and that was likely due to many of her advisers.

There are other historical inspirations for Daenerys Targaryen. Some of her story seems to be taken from Alexander the Great’s story and there are other parts taken from Joan of Arc’s story. However, when it comes to English history, she really was the Henry Tudor of the story.

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Game of Thrones is available to stream on Max.