White Queen: Cersei as Elizabeth Woodville

Like Richard III, Elizabeth Woodville is another figure from War of the Roses era England whom it can be difficult to discuss in a historical context since so many terrible calumnies were spread about her both before and after her death that it is a challenge to separate the fact from the fiction, though it may be fair to speculate that the willingness of people to credit such rumors and accusations might be evidence that Elizabeth Woodville was so widely unpopular during her lifetime that almost anything negative that was said about her would be believed.

Elizabeth Woodville was queen consort of England during the reign of her husband King Edward IV just as Cersei was Robert’s queen in Westeros. Both Elizabeth Woodville and Cersei Lannister were queens following a turbulent period of rebellion and civil war against a mad king that their husbands ultimately defeated. In Elizabeth’s case, it was Edward who took the throne from Henry VI, who was known to have suffered what today we would refer to as a mental breakdown that left him incapable of ruling, while in Cersei’s case, it was Robert who vanquished the Mad King Aerys, who descended into paranoia and pyromania as his reign wore on.

Apart from coming to power following periods of turmoil involving a revolt against a mad king, Cersei and Elizabeth Woodville have much in common. Like Cersei, who is described as a beautiful woman with golden hair, emerald eyes, and an attractive figure, Elizabeth Woodville was praised for her good looks, and it was widely believed that it was her beauty that had beguiled Edward into marrying her.


In addition to their stunning beauty, both Cersei and Elizabeth Woodville came from large, ambitious families whom they were determined to advance. Elizabeth Woodville arranged marriages, titles, and other honors for her family, including making her brother Anthony a Knight of the Garter. Anthony, like Jaime, was known to be a great tournament champion and was a prominent member of court. Much as Elizabeth used her status as queen to promote her family, Cersei is noted for doing the same in A Game of Thrones, urging Robert to name Jaime Warden of the East over Jon Arryn’s son, and ensuring that members of her family are stationed everywhere around the king, including as his squire like Lancel. Since titles and honors are limited, it is no surprise that the Lannister and Woodville families taking the lion’s share of these bred greed and resentment in other nobles who wanted access to the riches and honors a king could dispense and found themselves thwarted by Lannisters or Woodvilles.

After their husbands deaths, Cersei and Elizabeth each were threatened by the notion that their children were illegitimate. Elizabeth’s marriage to Edward was declared by an act of Parliament to have been invalid and bigamous because allegedly Edward had been married to another woman when he exchanged his vows with Elizabeth, thus invalidating the union and making any children, including the two princes who were in the Tower of London awaiting the elder one’s coronation, were illegitimate and ineligible to rule. In Westeros, meanwhile, Cersei has dealt with persistent rumors (that readers and viewers know to be accurate) that her children are not Robert’s but rather the issue of Cersei’s illicit and incestuous relations with her brother Jaime.


My prediction for Cersei is that there will be an edict from the King’s Council declaring her children illegitimate offspring of her incestuous affair with her brother. Given that the most plausible fate of Elizabeth’s princes in the Tower was that they were murdered by Richard III to cement his claim to the throne, I believe that we will see Tommen die, and I would even predict the same end for Myrcella, although of the Baratheon children I think that she has the greatest chance of survival.

The reason I feel that Myrcella may survive is Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter (creatively named Elizabeth) ended up marrying Henry VII when he came to power after defeating Richard III. While I don’t believe that Myrcella will be queen of Westeros when A Song of Ice and Fire concludes, it is possible that she will make a respectable marriage and live peacefully ever after. However, the main obstacle with that is, if Myrcella is declared illegitimate as I am convinced that she will be, her value on the marriage market would take a serious hit, and without the worth of being a marriage chip to link bloodlines and seal alliances, she is very vulnerable in Dorne and the world as a whole. Furthermore, a child of incest may encounter extra discrimination on the marriage market especially if she is not a Targaryen. Therefore, I believe that the bulk of the evidence suggests that Myrcella will not survive, and thus Maggy the Frog’s prophecy to Cersei about her three children that “gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds” shall be fulfilled. In other words, just as Elizabeth Woodville had her children declared illegitimate and had two murdered after that, so too will Cersei. Maggy the Frog warns of Cersei’s fate, but so does Elizabeth Woodville.



7 thoughts on “White Queen: Cersei as Elizabeth Woodville

  1. Maybe they will go with the show ending and Myrcella will die as well. Isn’t she missing a nose? I forget it’s been a while. I’ve been mostly catching the show lately over re reading the books.

    Cersei’s ultimate fate will be to be deposed and despised. I suppose strangled is also in the cards. I m not sure how much of the prophecy is literal and how much is figurative. I suppose her little brother could put a strangehold on her power limited her to weak and despised figure. I’m honestly surprised the Lannisters have any sort of army of army or loyalty. However there is a lot more going on with the cadet branches than we realize. Something keep s them wealthy and powerful besides a name.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that it is very possible that Myrcella will die especially in the light of Cersei’s prophecy, and probably quite a bit more likely that she dies than that she lives. Myrcella is disfigured like you say, and she is illegitimate, so if that becomes common knowledge, she has very little going that would help her survive and has very little value on the marriage market.

      I definitely think Cersei will end up without power and hated. The prophecy and how it relates to her brothers is interesting. It could mean she is literally strangled or that the strangling is more metaphorical like you said. The metaphorical aspects are especially worth considering since I doubt the prophecy is entirely straightforward. Definitely something to keep an eye on as the story wraps up.

      The Lannisters are an intriguing family. I think that they are entering a period of decline in influence now compared to earlier in the series, while I feel that families like the Starks will start to be on the ascendency. Will be interesting to see what ends up happening with the Lannisters.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought it was already common knowledge she is illegitimate. I suppose those in the crownlands probably dismiss them as rumors but in the other kingdoms I’m sure they believe it. I do think she will probably die as well. Or perhaps she just disappears from the realm scarred by her mother’s own scheming and lust for power. Though the prophecy does say shroud. I suppose she could be become a nameless septa with a golden shroud living a quiet and unmarried life removed from power.

    I’m thinking Cersei should actually live. I know people want to see her strangled especially show Cersei since she has done so much. However I think a better fate for her would be to see herself usurped and removed from power to live out her life in exile. Maybe forced to join a convent as was so common back then. Or perhaps exiled to the far side of the world leaving her bitter that despite all she sacrificed and schemed it all came for naught. I think a figurative strangling would be better.

    The Lannisters were basically on the decline with the death of Tywin. He was really the rock that held them in place. Too bad Cersei never realized it. Jaime certainly did. Without their father all previous deals and loyalties are broken. I suppose an argument could be made that death of Robert spelled the beginning of the decline since it put Joffrey on the throne when he was not ready. However they had a chance when Tommen was crowned. Their decline wasn’t serious until Tywin was no more. Cersei has yet to learn that she is not Tywin despite her thinking she is. I think her constant scheming will backfire as she realizes that she never truly learned how to play the game. She only learned how to bask in power her father bestowed on his family. It is unfortunate she was too young to learn from Robert’s Rebellion. She should have learned that even a powerful dynasty can fall when they make too many enemies.

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    1. Yeah, I think it is pretty common knowledge throughout Westeros that Myrcella is illegitimate. It would be nice if Myrcella was able to live a quiet life as a septa or something, but right now I definitely think that it is more likely that she will die.

      I can see what you mean about it maybe being more fitting if Cersei has to live the rest of her life in powerless exile (which I think it would be a happy enough ending for someone like Myrcella, but would be like hell for Cersei since she wants to be the center of attention and authority) and also if she had to see the death of all her children (assuming Myrcella does indeed die) but has to go on living. That would be in a sense a fate worse than death for her. Living but without what makes her life have meaning. A figurative strangling would suit her character arc well, and it would be a twist that sort of takes the prophecy in a direction many would not predict (which I like, because I think the prophecy isn’t going to be entirely straightforward).

      I agree that Tywin truly was the rock that held that family together and in power. I think Jamie realized that because Jamie seems to have the self-awareness to recognize that he really can’t play the game of courtly intrigue (he is more suited to the battlefield) but Cersei very much believes that she is a master of the game of thrones when she isn’t. She knows how to scheme, but she doesn’t really know how to forge alliances (which is something that Tywin was able to do) and that costs her and her family. The Lannisters are falling for lack of alliances not lack of schemes at this point.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d say it’s very accurate to say that a lack of alliances is causing the decline of the Lannisters. Though they are ripe for a coup from Tyrion. He is still on the far side of the world. Should he link with Dany like he did in the show he is uniquely suited to take Casterly Rock and become the next head of House Lannister. He could also oust his sister from power and banish her to whatever corner of the world he chooses.

        I am uncertain of Jaime’s arc and ultimate fate. Perhaps he will strangle his sister and former lover. Perhaps he will simply assume his place as Lord of Casterly Rock and pardon his brother. It’s really all possible with him. I do think he will survive at least until the War for the Dawn then all bets are off. He could always marry and continue the Lannister name.

        I will say the Lannisters will be knocked out of power. They will probably still rule Casterly Rock in the end. Even if all of the main Lannisters die there are cadet Branches who can assume the titles and responsibilities of the head family. It’s not uncommon for the head family to die out and a cousin or nephew to take over. Perhaps Dany will burn them all in response for their father slaughtering her entire family.

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      2. Tyrion is interesting. If he teams up with Dany and returns to Westeros, he is well-positioned to take Casterly Rock, and of the Lannister children he has the most in common with Tywin when it comes to an ability to play the game of thrones. I could see him coming back to Westeros to take revenge on his sister and remove her from power.

        Jaime is hard to predict. I could see him killing his sister or just assuming his place at Casterly Rock. Will be interesting to see where his storyline ultimately ends up.

        I do think that the Lannisters will still have Casterly Rock when the story ends, but their power in Westeros overall will be reduced.


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