Love her, hate her, or even love to hate her, you certainly have to be impressed by her. Cersei Lannister has not only survived six seasons of Game of Thrones, but has done it while staying in power for almost the entire time (however tenuous that power may be by now).
She has been Queen as the wife of Robert Baratheon, Queen Mother to King Joffrey and to King Tommen, and now she sits on the throne with her enemies dead at her feet. She’s manipulative, alcoholic, power-crazed and a willing murderer, but she’s also worthy of sympathy at times. She has spent her life dismissed as a woman, in the shadow of a prophecy that foretold her death, unable to be with the man she loved (admittedly incestuously), and has now lost her beloved children.
We cannot wait to see what Cersei gets up to in the final seasons of Game of Thrones (hands up if you don’t think she can stand against the combined might of Houses Stark and Targaryen), but we have a few months to go before we get to find out.
In the meantime, here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Cersei Lannister.
15. She And Jaime Are Almost Identical In The Books
In the show, Cersei (Lena Headey) and her twin brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) look very different, other than their distinctively Lannister gold hair. In the books, however, the two are almost identical. As children, the Lannister twins are described as being nearly impossible to tell apart – so much so that they managed to fool various tutors and family members over the years. Even their own father, Tywin Lannister, couldn’t always tell which was which. Cersei, always desperate to be treated as a man’s equal, used this by dressing up in Jaime’s clothes and impersonating him at his sword lessons so that she could learn.
The two were always inseparable, and would spend so much time together that they had the same mannerisms and inflections, further completing the illusion of being identical. As the twins grew older, this changed with puberty and the resulting obvious physical differences, but the two are still eerily similar in appearance.
14. Her Mother Knew About Her And Jamie
One of the big secrets at the heart of the Lannister family is the incestuous relationship between Cersei and her twin brother Jaime. The two have had a sexual relationship since childhood, and although they have kept it secret for most of their lives (and through Cersei’s marriage to King Baratheon), it is becoming increasingly well-known. Jaime is even the father of her children – a key plot point earlier in the show– although now moot, given that her children are all dead.
Long before the politicians of Westeros discovered their secret, however, their mother (Lady Joanna) discovered what her twins were doing. When they were still children, a servant walked in on them in bed together, and told the Lady of the house what they saw. Joanna, furious, moved Jaime’s bedchamber to the other end of the castle and posted a guard at Cersei’s. Had Joanna survived Tyrion’s birth, who knows what would have happened, and if she might have been able to keep her children apart.
13. She Was Turned Down As A Bride For Rhaegar…
Originally, Cersei was intended to be a bride for Rhaegar Targaryen, when the Targaryens were still on the Iron Throne. Since early childhood, her father, Tywin, had told Cersei that she would one day wed the prince, but to keep it a secret until it was official. The engagement was intended to be announced at the end of a Royal Tourney in honor of the birth of Viserys, when Cersei was ten. Having seen Rhaegar at the tournament and become slightly infatuated, Cersei was thrilled for this announcement to be made.
However, the Targaryens turned down Tywin’s offer of his eldest daughter as a royal bride, and they returned to Casterly Rock with no engagement settled. Although the Targaryens usually intermarried, there was no Targaryen woman suitable for Rhaegar, and he ended up marrying Elia Martel – a choice that left Tywin bitter at their refusal of Cersei, and undoubtedly also left Cersei bitter as well.
12. … And Viserys
Although the Targaryens had already refused Cersei as a bride for their family, Tywin Lannister retained hopes of putting his daughter on the throne as Queen. Living in King’s Landing (where Tywin was the Hand of the King), Cersei received many offers of marriage from the noble families of Westeros, but Tywin turned them all down. He wanted his daughter to marry a prince or a king, and would have nothing else.
He hoped that one day, Cersei might wed Viserys – an unlikely scenario, as he would presumably be married to Danerys in the usual Targaryen way. He was also many years younger than Cersei, which would also make the match unlikely. Tywin’s other secret hope was that Elia would die, and Rheagar would consider remarriage with Cersei. Eventually, of course, Tywin got his wish. Although his daughter did not marry a Targaryen, she did marry a king – Robert Baratheon, after he took the throne in Robert’s Rebellion.
11. Robert Did Not Want Her
After Robert’s Rebellion, Cersei was offered to him in marriage to seal the alliance between Lannister and Baratheon – politically, it would have been idiotic to turn Tywin down, but personally, Robert did not want to marry Cersei. He was still in love with Lyanna Stark, his long-time betrothed, and the woman who he started a war to win back from Rhaegar. Lyanna, of course, died giving birth to her baby at the Tower of Joy (a baby believed to be Jon Snow, and the son of Rhaegar himself). Although Robert won his war, he never got her back, and loved her through his marriage to Cersei.
On their wedding night, Robert even called Cersei “Lyanna’ accidentally” – a slight that she never forgot. Although she loved being Queen, Cersei knew from that moment on that Robert would never love her, and that his heart belonged to Lyanna Stark – the start of yet more bitterness to be held in Cersei’s heart.
10. She Aborted At Least One Of Robert’s Children
Although Cersei had three children (Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella), they were all born of her incestuous relationship with her brother Jamie, rather than her husband Robert. This was managed despite the fact that both Robert and Cersei were obviously fertile – her three children and his many bastards prove that beyond a doubt.
In the books, it is revealed that Cersei managed to avoid having a child by Robert through somewhat nefarious means. At one point, she was actually pregnant with Robert’s child, but went to a woman to have it ‘”cleansed” (aka an abortion). After that, she took various herbal precautions to make sure that she never got pregnant with his child again, driven by both her love for Jamie and her deep dislike of her own husband. Some theorize that she was also careful not to bear a Baratheon child because it might raise questions about the parentage of her other children – all of Robert’s bastards were dark haired, and all Lannister babies are blonde.
9. In The Series, The Abortion Became A Natural Death
Only one of many differences between the series and the books that inspire it, in Game of Thrones, Cersei actually had Robert’s baby. It is mentioned that Cersei gave birth to Robert’s son, but that he died of a fever soon after, and that she was absolutely heartbroken by the loss. In the series, Robert’s son was her firstborn, and it is mentioned that Cersei did care for Robert in the beginning, and even for some time after the death of their son. It was only later that she became bitter and began to hate him, and resumed her relationship with Jamie.
There are many possible reasons for the change – potentially to make Cersei more likeable, and add to her tragic backstory. She tells the story of her son’s death to Catelyn Stark, in a scene that shows her as a grieving mother and a more sympathetic character. It may also have been to hint at the parentage of her living children, as her firstborn is described as a “black haired boy”.
8. She Was Inspired By A Real Historical Figure (Or Two)
The entirety of A Song Of Ice And Fire has roots in real historical events, as author George R R Martin was inspired by the War of the Roses. A civil war, the War of the Roses was a power struggle between the House of Lancaster and the House of York in the 1400s, with both families attempting to claim the throne of England. Although Martin has been open about drawing inspiration from this famous historical conflict, he hasn’t linked specific characters to real figures – however, there are two main candidates who may be the inspiration for the Queen we love to hate.
The Lannisters are generally accepted to be loosely based on the Lancasters, with Cersei inspired by either (or both) Elizabeth Woodville or Margaret of Anjou. Margaret ruled as Henry the VI’s Queen, taking the reins when he wasn’t fit to rule. She was also a figure of controversy, with the legitimacy of her children questioned, and both lost their sons to vicious deaths. Elizabeth Woodville, meanwhile, was the wife of Edward the IV. Widely despised, known as a schemer, but also stunningly beautiful, there are plenty of parallels between these two queens as well.
7. Peter Dinklage Got Lena Headey The Role
Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, was one of the first characters cast in Game of Thrones, with everyone involved saying that the could imagine no one else in the role. They didn’t even audition another actor for the part. Dinklage then recommended Headey for the part of Cersei (which she obviously got!). Dinklage and Headey have been friends for many years, and were working together on a short film titled Pete Smalls Is Dead (2010) when Dinklage was reading the script for Game of Thrones. He was so excited about the project, and talked it up to Headey to such an extent that she approached creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss about the role of Cersei.
Dinklage himself was thrilled to see her play his sister (even if the two characters hate each other!), and the creators agreed. Their friendship must have made for some interesting moments behind the scenes – having to play siblings who despised each other before reverting to their off-screen friendship in between takes!
6. Headey Also Has A Connection To Emilia Clarke
Emilia Clarke, aka Daenerys Targaryen, hasn’t had an on-screen meeting with Cersei Lannister yet – although we know that one is coming! Now that Daenerys is headed to Westeros to re-claim the Iron Throne, these two powerful women are going to come to blows sooner or later. There’s a little-known connection between the actresses, as well – both have portrayed Sarah Connor at some point in their careers. Headey played the part in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008 – 2009), a short-lived TV series based around the character. Emilia Clarke, meanwhile, portrayed the Terminator icon more recently, in the 2015 feature film Terminator: Genisys.
Despite their work on the same franchise, Headey and Clarke have not actually worked together on any other project – although we wouldn’t like to rule it out in future, especially as Clarke’s star continues to rise. Perhaps the two will team up again for another huge franchise soon, if Headey lands a part in one of the many upcoming Star Wars films, as Clarke has just been announced as appearing in the Han Solo movie.
5. Lena Headey Was Pregnant During Season One
It’s not unusual for an actress to film while pregnant. There are all kinds of tricks to hide a pregnancy on screen – and Lena Headey used most of them during the filming of season one of Game of Thrones. The actress was pregnant with her son, Wylie, who was born in March of 2010. The pregnancy meant that Lena initially thought that she may not get the part of Cersei, as they knew she would be heavily pregnant during filming, and might not want to work around it. However, the creators loved her for the part so much that they agreed to make it work.
For much of the season, therefore, Headey is shot from careful angles, and in thick, voluminous clothing in order to hide her condition (as Cersei is obviously not pregnant during the events of season one). The wardrobe was actually very helpful in this case, as the female characters usually wear long and flowing dresses of thick material, which works perfectly for hiding a baby bump – if Cersei was spending her time in Mereen, where the women are more scantily clad, it would be a much bigger issue!
4. Lena Headey and Jerome Flynn reportedly Can’t Stand Each Other
Lena Headey has often found herself and her personal life in the public eye, especially her romantic relationships. Her connection to Game of Thrones co-star Jerome Flynn made headlines in 2014, though, when it was reported that the two couldn’t even be in the same room. Flynn plays Bronn on the hit series, the sellsword and sometimes bodyguard to Jamie Lannister, and with the two characters filming in the same fictional locations, meetings would be difficult to avoid.
It was reported, however, that crew members were asked to keep them apart, as the two had previously been an item and their relationship did not end on good terms. Although things might be frosty behind the scenes, both actors are consummate professionals, and we have no doubt that any future scenes together will be performed with admirable civility. Most people wouldn’t want to see their ex, let alone work with them on a regular basis.
3. Lena Headey Has Several Tattoos
We won’t be seeing them on Game of Thrones any time soon, but Lena Headey has multiple (quite visible) tattoos. While working, she is careful to cover them, with makeup where needed, but usually with costuming – this is another area where the medieval dresses come in quite handy. The actress is often vocal about loving tattoos, and always wanting to get more, even though they can affect her chances of getting a role.
Her multiple pieces include an open birdcage on her forearm, a butterfly on her bicep, and a huge backpiece made up of a lotus blossom, swallow, and peony petals. The actress seems to favor birds – as well as the birdcage and those on her back, she also has more bird tattoos on her wrist, and a tiny star at her inner elbow. She also has her sons names, some script (a quote from When Things Fall Apart), and small pieces on her feet.
2. She Was Kept Clothed On The Show To Make Her Walk Of Shame More Shocking
One of the biggest moments for Cersei in season five was her “walk of shame” – a walk of penitence taken to allow her to return to the Red Keep. After being imprisoned by the Faith Militant, accused of incest, regicide, and treason, and tortured until she confesses. After admitting an affair with Lancel, she is allowed to return to the Red Keep to be with her son – but has to walk there naked, barefoot, and with her head clipped, while the people rain abuse and filth down on her, and the Septa rings a bell and proclaims her shame.
It was a brutal scene, and one that the writers knew was coming for some time. Game of Thrones is well known for its use of casual (and often gratuitous) nudity, but Cersei was kept clothed, despite having multiple sex scenes. Headey told Blastr that she intentionally stayed clothed because she sees that as “part of her power”, and that it would make the eventual walk of shame “a more shocking disempowering moment”.
1. Fans Avoid Lena Headey Because Of Her Character
Although there are plenty of fans who absolutely adore Lena Headey for her work on the show (and all her other incredible projects), there are plenty more who allow their hate for Cersei to bleed over into real life. Headey talked on Conan about being called a “f***ing bitch” by a fan, although she does admit that it is something of a compliment (as it means she is playing the role so convincingly), and that she is almost more concerned about the people who love the character!
Headey has also spoken several times about her experience at Comic-Con, where fans actually said that they didn’t want her autograph. She did sign several books despite that, as she was sitting next to Peter Dinklage, who was unable to keep up with all the autograph requests. She’s even had books snatched out of her hands by fans who hate her character so much that they refuse to have her autograph along with the rest of the cast.
What do you think will happen to Cersei in the final season of Game of Thrones? Let us know in the comments.
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