Fly on the Wall: The War of the Roses

     I’m sure there are many people who have read and/or watched Game of Thrones. It is an exciting tale of lords and ladies, knights and princesses, kings and queens, and a touch of fantasy; who doesn’t like a good intermingling of dragons and ghosts and direwolves?

     How many people here in Blogland know that Game of Thrones is actually principally (loosely) based on a period in English history known as the War of the Roses? It took place between 1455 and 1485 between the houses Lancaster (Red Roses) and York (White Roses). Though George R.R. Martin masterfully wove together many different elements of history, the main story and characters reflect the long struggle for control of the English throne at the end of the Middle Ages; this struggle resulted in the House of Tudor, which was Henry Tudor (a.k.a. Henry VII), claiming decent from House Lancaster, marrying Elizabeth of York to strengthen his new-found rule. The Tudors are the next chapter in the Royal House, so, for now, I am sticking with pre-1500.

     I would love to witness life in England and France during the War of the Roses. It has inspired writers for many, many decades. In our recollections of the latter 1400s, we see love, deceit, bloodshed, heroes, villains, contractual marriages, and incredible forward momentum in guild crafts and trading. Teaching and learning at some of the world’s oldest universities had become honorable pursuits. Paris was a most venerable city.

     But, there are several things I would want to witness just for clarity or greater understanding. For example, during the War of the Roses (and a little before and after), French and English royals were so intertwined due to marriage alliances that it is really quite difficult to keep all the players in line. I would want to observe all of them; meet them, get to know them, remotely, as a tiny insect. I want to witness first hand what life was like for both women and men, and children. When a girl had her first period, she was considered a woman; this usually occurs around 12 or 13 years of age. I want to see how drastically people we consider children today differ, in their emotional development and mannerisms. I want to witness some of the guild crafts being undertaken; such as blacksmithing and armament and wool weaving. I want to see the preparation of food and understand the things considered delicacies (like grapes during the Victorian Era). I want to understand what normal smells accompanied the time, and what sounds and sights characterized it.

     Though they do their best, based on historical records, no Renaissance Fair can truly recreate the environment of the time period encompassing the War of the Roses. Tournaments and jesters and guild crafters abound, but some elements just cannot exist in the contemporary Renaissance Fair. For example, the feudal system no longer exists, so no there are no warring lord houses. Further, where did this idea of dragons and ghouls and other nightmarish creatures come from? To be a fly on the wall, perhaps I could gain insight into the persistence and attractiveness of folklore. I’m certain life was exceedingly difficult, especially compared with today’s standards; perhaps that is why storytelling and imagination played such an important role in medieval society. Dragons always make a story more magical *grin*

     I would also like to be a fly on the wall during the Victorian Era. How fascinating that would be, to watch the Industrial Revolution take off, to see the weird science and scientific exploration they engaged in, and perhaps to see who Jack the Ripper was; to see the U.S. ushered into the modern age.

     But I digress. My top choice would be the age of dragons and knights.

Auf wiedersehen,


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7 Responses to Fly on the Wall: The War of the Roses

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  3. bridawn says:

    I didn’t know that about Game of Thrones… quite interesting. I would definitely like to by a fly on the wall during MANY different historical eras.

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  5. A GAME OF THRONES FAN! I have been searching for you for so long…
    But I digress, this is a great post and a great notion. I’d now like to change mine to “being a fly hovering near the funerary pyre when Daenerys gets up unharmed but not alone; flanked by three gorgeous dragons.”
    I’m sorry for being so excited but well… It’s Game of Thrones.
    Anyway, here’s mine. Hope you like it! I loved yours. 😀

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  7. I haven’t watched the show because I’m trying to finish the books first! But I like your change. I haven’t reached that part yet, but it sounds epic. I just got to the part where King Robert died and Lord Eddard Stark was killed (which I hate; I am really quite fond of that character).

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