By now everyone should have seen The Red Wedding on Game of Thrones, or like me you've read the books and know what I'm talking about. If not, this is a spoiler of a sorts so look away now...Danger, Will Robinson! (Seriously, if you don't know I'm afraid you live under a rock that is under a rock. It was everywhere.) I'm here to tell you fantasy fans that the Red Wedding is based in part on a real event in Scottish History. It is commonly called The Black Dinner of 1440.
So here we go, history puppies. Sir Alexander Livingston and Sir William Crichton had recently come to an agreement on power in Scotland. Sort of. It was a bit shaky as many of these kinds of arrangements usually are. The pair were convinced that a group of young, headstrong men, known as The Black Douglases, lead by -you guessed the 6th Earl of Douglas, were out to get them. Now there is very little historical proof of this nefarious plot but who really knows. Record keeping wasn't at the top of the priority block during this time.
So this is what Crichton did. He lured the young Earl away from his castle and convinced him to present himself to the king of Scotland, James the 2nd. James was a boy at the time. The Earl arrived with his brother, David, and his advisor, Sir Malcolm Fleming of Cumbernauld. (And we all thought Benedict Cumberbatch was an odd name) The group arrived at Edinburgh Castle on November 24th, 1440.
Now, according the legend, a banquet was held in the Great Hall of the Castle and the young James II was charmed by the Douglases. At the end of the feast a black bull's head was brought covered into the hall on a tray. A single drum beat was set pounding. The tray was placed in front of the Earl. Scottish custom tells us that the head of a black bull is a symbol of death. As soon as the head was revealed, the Douglases knew their fate. James pleaded with Livingston and Crichton for the lives of his new friends but the pleas of the ten old king went unheeded. The Douglases were beheaded in front of him, right in the Great Hall. What's a little bloodshed between friends, right?
So there you go, my little blog loves, the actual event that the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones is based on.
When asked about the scene author George R.R. Martin remarked "No matter how much I make up, there's stuff in history that's just as bad, or worse."
Oh yes, George, there really is...we kind of like the gory stuff here at History's Mistress.