A mad bastard who loved to hurt people, Edward of Lancaster is history’s Joffrey Baratheon.
A crazy young prince of questionable parentage, with a fondness for chopping off his enemy’s heads. Sound familiar?
If you’re thinking this description sounds like everyone’s favorite smirking little shit, Joffrey Baratheon, you’re not wrong! As fans of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice (and HBO’s Game of Thrones) know, Joffrey Baratheon is an unparalleled villain, both terrifying in his uncontrolled madness and hilarious in his epic whininess.
But you may not know that Joffrey Baratheon is actually based on a real-life prince, Edward of Lancaster, who, by all accounts, was equally as despicable as young Joff. In this article, we’ll explore four ways Lancaster inspired Martin’s boy-villain.
Oh, and, obviously, spoilers ahead. For history, and for Game of Thrones.
#1: His parentage is… questionable.
Robert Baratheon’s seed was strong and Joffrey Baratheon, though publicly acknowledged as his son, unfortunately got none of that seed. Though his mother, Cersei Lannister, was married to Robert, her brother, Jamie, was her lover and the father of all of her biological children, including Joffrey.
There are rumors that indicate that Edward of Lancaster was also a bastard. He’s the only child of King Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, but many historians agree that he was probably of illegitimate birth. King Henry suffered from mental illness and his marriage to Margaret was a rocky one. Edward was born eight years into his parents’ marriage and many suspect that Margaret, desperate for an heir, had slept with one of her friends in order to conceive a child.
#2: He was super violent.
Few characters in Game of Thrones sow chaos quite like Joffrey Baratheon. From chopping off Ned Stark’s head to killing poor Ros in cold blood with his crossbow, fans (and characters in the world) never quite knew what Joffrey would do next.
Historical accounts suggest that Edward of Lancaster was also mad. The Ambassador of the Duchy of Milan had this to say about young Edward in 1467:
“This boy, though only thirteen years of age, already talks of nothing but cutting off heads or making war…”
Records tell us that Edward was also a pretty shitty friend, too. He often enjoyed attacking the poor men assigned to accompany him with weapons like lances and swords. I’m sure none of them were too upset when Edward’s comeuppance came for him a few years later.
#3: He married a turncloak’s daughter.
After years of torturing poor Sansa Stark with the possibility of marriage, Joffrey Baratheon wed Margaery Tyrell. Though young and beautiful, Margaery’s path to queenhood was a bit circumspect. She was actually the wife of Joffrey’s enemy, Renly Baratheon, who had tried to claim the young king’s throne. After Renly is murdered, Margaery’s family, the Tyrells, turns cloak and decides to support Joffrey. It’s at this point that Joffrey and Margaery are married.
Edward of Lancaster was also engaged to be married to his former enemy’s daughter. At age 17 (just before his death) Edward of Lancaster was betrothed to Anne Neville, the younger daughter of Richard, Earl of Warwick. Richard had supported Edward of Lancaster’s mortal enemy, Edward IV, before deciding to support the Lancasters instead. Marrying his daughter Anne to crazy prince Edward was supposed to ensure his loyalty to the Lancaster family.
Even in real-life history, the women were often used as pawns in men’s wars.
#4: He was killed by his enemies.
If you’re like me, you shrieked in satisfaction when young Joffrey was finally murdered at the purple wedding. Joffrey’s death was satisfying not only because he was a terrible person, but because it saved Margaery from having to spend her life attached to that monster.
(Sidebar: how epic was Olenna Tyrell’s confession to Jamie Lannister about her role in Joffrey’s murder?)
Edward of Lancaster also met at untimely end at his enemy’s hand. Ever the lover of warfare and violence, Edward was killed fighting during the Battle of Tewkesbury. It seems that, like Joff, Edward talked a big game, but wasn’t actually a wizard on the battlefield. There are differing accounts of who actually killed him, but we like Shakespeare’s dramatic interpretation, which suggests that Edward of Lancaster was beheaded by the victorious Edward IV, simply because that lets us imagine a world in which Robb Stark’s direwolf bit off Joffrey’s head.
We’re coping with the two year wait until the end of Game of Thrones by writing these articles. How are you surviving? Tell us in the comments.