Game of Thrones inspiration: Who could Sansa Stark be based on in real history?

Game of Thrones certainly took some inspiration from real history. Who is the inspiration for Sansa Stark? This is a tricky one.
(L to R) Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark and Maisie Williams as Arya Stark - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO. Game of Thrones S8E3.
(L to R) Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark and Maisie Williams as Arya Stark - Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO. Game of Thrones S8E3. /

There is no doubt that many characters from Game of Thrones are inspired by real historical figures. That’s the case for Sansa Stark, although it’s not as easy to work out as some of the others.

Sansa Stark is a wispy little thing at the start. She’s temperamental, spoiled, and bratty at times. While she believes that she is better than her sister because she is doing what is expected of her as a lady, she soon realizes that doing as you’re told isn’t always the best option.

However, Sansa is willing to play a political game in the end. She is also willing to lead, and she takes control of The North, becoming Queen of the North after her brother becomes King of Westeros.

This brings two historical figures to mind when it comes to Sansa’s inspiration. The first is from during the time of the Wars of the Roses, which is the main inspiration for most of series, but the second is from the end of the Tudor dynasty.

Sansa Stark is much like Elizabeth of York and Elizabeth I

I know we’ve said Elizabeth of York is inspiration for Jon Snow, but she is also inspiration for Sansa Stark. We just have to look at the way Sansa was raised. She was the daughter of a high-ranking lord, and she was raised with that in mind. Like Elizabeth of York, she made sure her abilities as a lady were high to ensure a good marriage.

Later on in Game of Thrones, Sansa would be used as a political pawn by a few people. At first, there were the Lannisters, who held Sansa hostage in King’s Landing to keep the North in line. Elizabeth of York was kept hidden away for a while after the death of her father, although by her mother to protect her. Eventually, she would go into Richard III’s court, although arguably not out of want at first.

Sansa was married to Tyrion Lannister. This was partly a way to mock her, but also a way to combine two powerful houses. However, at one point, she was betrothed to Joffrey. She was then married to Ramsey Snow/Bolton as a way for the Bolton to legitimize the taking over of Winterfell. Elizabeth of York may have been considered as a wife for Richard III and was later married to Henry Tudor, who would become Henry VII of England, as a way to bring an end to the Wars of the Roses.

There is also inspiration of a younger Elizabeth I in Sansa’s story. She was illegitimized by her father and initially taken out of the line of succession. After being put back in, she ended up imprisoned by her Catholic sister, Mary. Her future as queen was never certain as Mary married Philip of Spain. They just never had any children.

There are chances that Elizabeth was sexually assaulted as a young girl when she lived with her stepmother’s husband, Thomas Seymour. This would connect to Sansa being raped by Ramsey on their wedding night and for the nights after that.

Then it comes to Sansa getting out of Winterfell and finding her way to rule as Queen of the North. As we see Sansa speak up for herself and her people, there is clear inspiration taken from Elizabeth I of England. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sansa refuses to marry, although then there would be questions of who her crown would pass onto.

Where the similarities in Game of Thrones end

Of course, looking into all this, there are some clear real historical events that weren’t used. Sansa didn’t helped to bring an end to the War of Five Kings in Game of Thrones. Her political marriages were small fry compared to Elizabeth of York’s.

We also don’t get to see what’s to come of Sansa in her reign. While she will have been traumatized by everything that happened, she will also know that she needs to have an heir. There was nothing about the North being like Westeros, where the monarch is voted on afterward. It’s hard to tell if Game of Thrones would go the route of Elizabeth I of England, where a king from another nation came in. Could this lead to Jon Snow eventually becoming King of the North?

Sansa’s storyline also included everything that happened at the Vale. She watched as Littlefinger pushed her Aunt Lyssa out of the Sky Door. This could partly be linked to Elizabeth of York standing by her husband when someone turned up claiming to be her younger brother, Richard, but it’s a bit far-fetched. This made for a good story in Game of Thrones.

For the most part, Sansa’s story is inspired by two Elizabeths of the past. And it turns out that they are granddaughter and grandmother.

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Game of Thrones is available to stream on Max.