‘Game of Thrones’: Red Wedding Is Based On Real Historical Events

Billy Idol once sang about a nice day to start again, but that was for a white wedding. In Game of Thrones lore, the key color for a wedding is red. And it just so happened that the Red Wedding is based on real events. 

At the same time, some fans are still lamenting how Game of Thrones came to a “bad end,” with a disappointing final season that fans are still debating. Still, most would agree the show did more right than wrong, and on balance, the show can be remembered with more fondness than regret. 

What was the show’s Red Wedding?

Red Wedding - Game of Thrones, Season 3
Game of Thrones | HBO

When people compile their lists of the best scenes from the HBO phenomenon, the Red Wedding ranks at or near the top of such lists like this one from USA Today, where the compiler argued, “Call me basic, I do not care: The greatest scene in GoT history is The Red Wedding. I came into the show having not read the books, so while the death of Ned Stark threw me for a loop, I figured that was a twist to shock me a bit and keep me invested. The Red Wedding showed me definitively: This George R.R. Martin dude? Does. Not. Care.”

In the scene, which appeared in the next to last episode of the third season back in 2013. The scene was a literal  massacre during the War of the Five Kings. It was revenge by Walder Frey against King Robb Stark for breaking the marriage pact between House Stark and House Frey. Those killed in addition to Robb Stark were his mother, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley); pregnant wife, Talisa (Oona Chaplin); direwolf Grey Wind; and thousands of his bannermen.

This was partly witnessed by Arya Stark, whose reputation as diminutive but deadly was sealed once she assassinated Walder Frey and his sons Black Walder and Lothar, for their roles in the Red Wedding and the deaths of her mother, brother, and pregnant sister-in-law. So there. 

What was the real Red Wedding?

One might think that scene is too gruesome to be real, but one should never forget the maxim that truth is stranger than fiction. According to Mental Floss, the Red wedding was based on two particular historical events: 

One of these was The Black Dinner of 1440 in Scotland. As legend has it, the children were all enjoying food and entertainment until the end of the dinner, when the head of a black bull was dropped on the table. Two young people  were dragged outside, given a mock trial, found guilty of high treason, and beheaded.

The other morbid event  was the Massacre of Glencoe in 1691, when two soldiers claiming they needed shelter ended up murdering 38 people – some of whom were still in their beds. This took place in Scotland as well, so something about that nation proved to be fertile ground for Martin, who said, “no matter how much I make up, there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad, or worse”

‘Game of Thrones’ doesn’t have to be “ruined.” 

When it comes to ranking the seasons of Game of Thrones – never mind that it won several Emmys –  the final season typically ranks toward the bottom. Or perhaps its ranks toward the top if it’s a “worst of” list.  So many people were so disappointed in the last season, they began to think the legacy of Game of Thrones was forever tarnished. 

CNET argues that even if the show did lose its way, “Game of Thrones will endure as one of the great achievements in television history. But part of its legacy is a lesson: Endings are hard. No matter how great a show is, don’t count on its conclusion to satisfy until you see it with your own eyes.”

See also The Rise of Skywalker