Game Of Thrones’ Walk Of Shame Happened For Real
We’ve previously told you about how various events from Game of Thrones drew from real life, from ancient societies having their own impressive steel or mystical fire to how the Red Wedding drew from 15th-century Scotland’s Black Dinner. Here’s one connection we haven’t talked about before. Cersei’s walk of atonement through King’s Landing was based on something real (and we’re not just saying it was based on the real walk of shame that everyone experiences at some point).
This story goes back to 15th-century England, when a merchant’s daughter became mistress to King Edward IV. Her name was Elizabeth, but we now remember her as Jane Shore, the name that later writers gave her. That sounds a fair bit like a name you might encounter in Game of Thrones, though Westeros would probably spell it "Jeayne" or something.
Jane and Edward were together around a decade till the king died in 1483, leaving the throne to his 12-year-old son. Richard III, Lord Protector to the young king, seized the throne in a matter of months and had the boy killed. Meanwhile, Richard dealt with any other possible enemies. This included Jane, whom he said was spying against the new government by delivering messages from Edward IV’s widow (the dead boy’s mother) to a different noblemen she was sleeping with. He also accused her of sorcery; we can’t confirm either allegation.
He sent Jane to prison and also sentenced her to a walk of penance. That meant walking through London as people jeered at her. She wasn’t nude but was in her underwear and barefoot, which was still enough to make this a walk to inspire lust in onlookers. As one writer described it (we’re translating slightly from the old English here): “She was bare save for her petticoat only, yet went she so fair and lovely—the stares cast a comely red in her cheeks—that her great shame won her much praise, among those that were more amorous of her body then curious of her soul.”
The nude part of Cersei’s walk may be an exaggeration of Jane’s half-strip, a separate reference to how adulterers were shamed, or was possibly influenced by how Jane was otherwise often depicted as nude. Eton College has two portraits of Jane showing bare breasts, one of her bathing and one her just posing in jewelry. No one seems sure what those portraits are doing there. All the other portraits show more famous people, or people connected to the college, all clothed.
Despite Richard III seizing all her property and sentencing her to possibly die in Ludgate prison, Jane’s story ends not so sadly. The king’s solicitor general visited her in prison as part of his duties, fell in love with her, and released her against the king’s wishes. She lived to around the age of 80.
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Top image: HBO