Let’s Talk About Game of Thrones part 3: Holy Roman Imperial Edition

Ugh, Game of Thrones. Am I right? No. Collectively we are now all wrong about it.

As we draw a once great television series, that now has all the gravitas and world building of an eighties hair fantasy on fast forward to a close, there was one little thing that made me laugh and then laugh again.

Was it Sansa telling her sad-ass uncle to sit down? Yes, but also no. It was the fact that the theoretical response to preventing dynastic war in Westeros is to create an elective monarchy. That right there is just a chef’s kiss piece of poorly understood history.

As always, to understand why I think this is funny we’re going to need to unpack some stuff, and the first thing is probably what an elective monarchy is.  I regret to inform you of  the fact that it ain’t some sort of advancement away from other monarchical systems. It’s just a bog-standard type of medieval monarchy and you find them in such places as: Macedon, Byzantium, the Holy Roman Empire (shout out to a real one), Venice, and my people in Bohemia – just to name a few.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Game of Thrones part 3: Holy Roman Imperial Edition”

Let’s talk about Game of Thrones part 2: on marriage and Sansa

So, Game of Thrones, am I right?  (I am.)  Oh, what is that, you are unsettled by marital rape?  Excellent, that means you are not a worthless human being.  Sadly, however, I’m going to welcome you to marriage in the medieval period, my friends.
OK, OK, let’s back it up.  Perhaps when you think about marriage in the medieval period you’re all like …

chivalry

Yeah, but no.  The thing about chivalric or courtly love is that it was a construct that has nothing to do with people actually being married.  Wait, no, it has a lot to do with people being married, but the people in love were never married.
When you think about courtly love who do you name?  Probably Guinevere and Lancelot, no? Yeah think about who was married there.

I’ll give you a minute.

Right.

Continue reading “Let’s talk about Game of Thrones part 2: on marriage and Sansa”

Let’s talk about Game of Thrones part 1: Byzantine Constantinople

You will be hugely unsurprised to learn that medieval historians love A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones.  Like really really love it.  This is because a) medieval historians are already enormous geeks, and so are free to get their geek on harder whenever they so choose; b) ASOIAF rules, obviously; and c) There are a tonne of references to medieval history throughout the books that allow us to feel like we’re in a little clique that gets it the most.  As a result of all these overlaps there are going to be a million posts on this subject over time, but today we’re going to talk about the links between Constantinople and ASOIAF.

In the early medieval period Constantinople was the most affluent and secure city in Europe, because, among other reasons its taxation and governmental administrative systems survived in-tact whereas the Empire had largely collapsed in the West.

Continue reading “Let’s talk about Game of Thrones part 1: Byzantine Constantinople”