The 13th Floor

GAME OF THRONES’ Red Wedding is Based on a Real Event: The Black Dinner

**This article contains GAME OF THRONES SPOILERS**

Haven’t the Starks been through enough, already? The end of season 5 saw the death of John Snow, the blinding of Arya, and Sansa jumping off the top floor of a castle.  However, one of the biggest horrors to befall the house of Stark had to be season 3’s Red Wedding. This betrayal and slaughter at the hands of the House of Frey nearly laid to waste what remained of the Starks, taking the lives of Stark Matriarch Lady Catelyn, her son Robb, and most of their army. It was a dark day that was modeled after two separate real life events in Scotland.


The Clan Douglas were one of Scotland’s most powerful families during the Late Middle Ages. In the 15th century, Scotland was at war with England. During that time, the Douglas family had amassed a great deal of power, as well as an alliance with France who were at war with England. Within their own country, the Clan Douglas was seen as a threat to the stability of Scotland and those who wished to appease England. In 1440, William Douglas, the 6th Earl of Douglas, along with his younger brother were invited to dine with ten-year-old King James II of Scotland. The event would become known as The Black Dinner.

Held in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle, the meal was going extremely well. The young king was enjoying the company of the Earl when a black bull’s head was placed on the table in front of William. The head was the symbol of death. The two brothers were arrested and taken to Castle Hill. There they were found guilty of treason during a mock trial and beheaded. Before the execution was carried out, the Earl requested that his brother be killed first so that the boy would not have to witness his older brother’s death. It was said that the young King of Scotland pleaded for the lives of his guests. His pleading fell on deaf ears, as his new friends were killed in front of him. In the aftermath, the Clan Douglas laid siege to Edinburgh Castle. Sensing that the castle could not withstand such a powerful attack, they surrendered.

In 1692, in the Highlands of Scotland, another real event would later provide some GAMES OF THRONES inspiration. Four years earlier, William, Prince of Orange had assumed the throne in England. Unhappy with the arrangement, John Graham, 1st Viscount of Dundee, commanded a force of Scottish Highlanders in an attempt to restore King James to the throne. The event was known as the Jacobite uprising. The uprising lasted until 1690 when the Jacobites were defeated at the battles of Cromdale and Boyne. On August 27, 1691, William offered a pardon to the Highland clans who participated in the uprising as long as they took an oath of allegiance to him by the first of the year in 1692. Those who did not take the oath by that day would face grave consequences.  James sent word to Scotland authorizing the clans to take the oath. For many, word would reach them only weeks before the deadline. Although some had taken the oath, others such as Alastair Maclain, 12th Chief of Glencoe, held out until the day before the deadline before doing so. It took Maclain several days to reach anyone who could officially administer the oath. Despite being passed the deadline, Maclain’s oath was accepted and all seemed well.

Then in early February of 1692, the Earl of Argyll’s Regiment of footmen, consisting of 120 men under the command of Robert Campbell, arrived in Glencoe. There they spent two weeks enjoying Maclain’s Highland hospitality. Then on the 12th of February, Captain Drummond arrived at camp with new instructions for Campbell. That evening Campbell played cards with his hosts before retiring to his camp for the night. The next morning, Alastair was killed as he rose from his bed to fight. Outside, Campbell’s soldiers murdered 38 men as they fled their homes in confusion. An additional 40 women and children died from exposure when Campbell’s men burned their homes to the ground.  This event had such an effect on the region that to this day a sign hangs on the door of Glencoe’s Clachaig Inn which states “No Campbells”.