The true story of gory killing that inspired Game of Thrones ‘Red Wedding’

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle
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In the lead up to the sixth series of hit TV show Game of Thrones, we take a look at the gory real-life event that helped inspire the infamous ‘Red Wedding’ scene.

The gruesome ‘Red Wedding’ episode in series three of Game of Thrones shocked viewers with its brutal slaughter of multiple characters - but the bloodbath was in fact based on historical Scottish events.

Fans of the HBO series were left speechless after some of their favourite characters were murdered in a brutal fashion at a wedding, some even accused writer George R.R. Martin of going too far in the grotesque scenes.

But the author insisted that scenes were based on historical events in Scottish history, including gory clan battle the Massacre of Glencoe.

Another gruesome inspiration for the scene occurred in Edinburgh in 1440.

After the death in 1439 of Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Douglas, the effective regent, power was shared uneasily between three men, the Lord Chancellor Crichton, James Douglas, 1st Earl of Avondale and Sir Alexander Livingstone of Callendar.

On November 24, Crichton invited a young 16-year-old William Douglas and his younger brother David to dine at Edinburgh Castle but a black bull’s head was brought to the table - a symbol of condemnation - and served up on a platter.

The king’s men then dragged the Earl and his followers out of the castle into the courtyard. After a mock trial that found them guilty of high treason.

In the presence of the 10-year-old King James II rough justice followed immediately as they were dragged out into the palace yard and beheaded.

Crichton, Livingston and Avondale are all thought to have been behind this attempt.

Despite the murders, the Douglases came to dominate the Scottish court, filling the major offices and posts of government with their family and supporters. When James finally assumed the role of governing Scotland by himself in 1449 he found that the Douglas clan had a stranglehold on power that they would not give up lightly.

James spent much of his reign attempting to break the Douglases.

Speaking in an interview following the release of the red wedding episode of Game of Thrones, author George R R Martin said: “The Red Wedding is based on a couple real events from Scottish history. No matter how much I make up there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad, or worse.”