The shocking history behind Game of Thrones’ most brutal massacre
Everybody knows of Game of Thrones‘ infamous family massacre – the Red Wedding – by now, but did you know the gruesome and shocking actions of the Freys were actually based off even gorier and unbelievable moments in real history?
When asked about the Red Wedding, A Song Of Ice and Fire writer George R. R. Martin revealed his inspiration behind the scenes that shocked television fans around the world (and book fans earlier than that): “The Red Wedding is based on a couple real events from Scottish history. One was a case called The Black Dinner […]. The larger instance was the Glencoe Massacre […]. No matter how much I make up, there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad, or worse.”
While we continue the agonisingly long wait between seasons (please just let us know if Jon Snow is really dead?), we decided to delve deeper into the real life behind one of television’s most shocking and bloody twists.
The Black Dinner
Noble adolescents murdered: 2
Total fatalities: 3
Likelihood of putting one off their dinner: 5/10
During the reign of King of Scotland James II in 1440, who was 10 years old at the time, James’ advisors feared a clan called the Black Douglas were becoming too powerful in Scotland. The king’s counsellor Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar and Chancellor of Scotland Sir William Crichton reached out to black Douglas, seemingly to make peace. They invited the newly-appointed 6th Earl of Douglas, who was just 16, and his brother, who was 10, to feast with the king at Edinburgh Castle.
According to legend, the adolescents were enjoyed the food, entertainment and company until the end of the dinner, when the king’s men started pounding on a single drum. They brought out a covered plate and placed it in front of the young Earl. When they removed the covering, the Earl was faced with the head of a black boar. In Scottish custom, this symbolised the death of the principal guest at dinner.
The Earl, his brother and their advisor Sir Malcolm Fleming of Cumbernauld were taken outside, given a brief trial where they were found guilty of high treason, and then beheaded in the courtyard. It is alleged the young James II pleaded for the lives of his new friends, to little avail. They were murdered before his eyes.
The Glencoe Massacre
Noble adolescents murdered: Unknown
Total fatalities: 38 from massacre, others through adverse weather conditions
Likelihood of putting one off their dinner: 10/10
After James VII was deposed in 1691, all Scottish clans were called upon to swear allegiance to King William of Orange. Clan MacDougal had previously sworn an oath to James VII, and had to wait for confirmation they were free to break this oath before transferring their allegiance. They were able to deliver the oath for William, but missed the deadline by several days. This did not please the new King or his team of advisors, who began plotting the demise of the clan.
In late January or early February, 120 soldiers under the command of the Campbell clan arrived at the home of the MacDonalds in Glencoe. They claimed to need shelter as a nearby fort was full, and the MacDonalds accommodated them as was custom. The men stayed for nearly a fortnight until they received instructions to “put all to the sword under seventy”.
The soldiers waited until their victims were asleep before slaughtering as many men as they could manage, many in their beds. 38 men died by their hands, and the few who escaped the massacre were likely to have died in the raging blizzard that was taking place in Glencoe.
After overtaking the novels in many storylines, we are completely in the dark about what gory and unexpected horrors could lie ahead in the upcoming sixth season of Game of Thrones. All we do know is we can’t wait until April 17!