“When you play the game of thrones you win, or you die. There is no middle ground.” —Cersei Lannister
So far, Cersei Lannister has remained alive in both Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire, but she’s experienced more than her fair share of grief, death, and vengeance. Here are a few facts about the life of Game of Thrones’s favorite villain.
22. Sliding Doors
Carice van Houten, who plays Melisandre, was actually initially asked to audition for the role of Cersei in Game of Thrones.
In the books, Cersei is described as looking exactly like her brother Jaime—so much so that they were often able to impersonate one another.
20. Mother Knows Best
Cersei and Jaime’s incestuous relationship started when they were still children and has been kept a secret (although badly) into their adulthood. Their mother Lady Joanna, however, found out about them and moved Jaime to another part of the castle while posting a guard at Cersei’s door. Unfortunately, Joanna soon died giving birth to Tyrion.
19. Seeing Double
Both Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) and Lena Headey (Cersei) have played the role of Terminator‘s Sarah Connor; Headey took the role in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Clarke played Connor in Terminator: Genisys.
Cersei was turned down by Rhaegar Targaryen. Her father Tywin intended to make an advantageous match, but after he tried to broker a marriage, the Lannisters went home empty-ended. Rhaegar married Elia Martel instead.
17. Twice Burned
Although Cersei eventually married King Robert Baratheon, Robert was still in love with Lyanna Stark and agreed to the match for political reasons. He even called Cersei “Lyanna” on their wedding night.
16. All My Children
Depending on whether or not your follow the books or the series, Cersei’s first-born (and only) child of Robert Baratheon was either aborted before birth (the novels) or died of a fever (the TV series).
15. Lancaster versus Lannister
Author George R.R. Martin admits to taking inspiration for the books from the War of the Roses, an epic 15th century struggle for control of the English throne fought by the houses of York and Lancaster. Cersei herself has a lot in common with Margaret of Anjou: Margaret took control of the throne from her unfit husband and her children were rumoured to be illegitimate. She also lost both of her sons to a violent death. Cersei also bears a striking resemblance to Elizabeth Woodville, a well-known plotter of royal intrigue.
Elizabeth Woodville on the left, and Margaret of Anjou on the right
14. Walk of Shame
Cersei’s naked “Walk of Atonement” was inspired by a real-life event. In the late 15th century, Jane Shore was accused of sorcery and witchcraft. After the death of King Edward IV, the new king, Richard III, accused Shore (who was Edward’s mistress) of causing Edward to “waste and wither”; we know today the king was suffering from scoliosis. There wasn’t enough evidence to prove the case, and instead Shore was convicted of immorality and forced to walk barefoot, clothed only in undergarments, through the city.
13. Killer Instincts
Cersei’s violent tendencies started early in life. It is implied that she murdered her friend Melara Hetherspoon by pushing her down a well when they were both only children.
12. Little Brother
The witch Maggy the Frog predicted that Cersei would die at the hands of a valonqar (High Valerian for “little brother”). As a result, Cersei has long believed that Tyrion will kill her. Nonetheless, her twin Jaime is also technically her little brother; he was born after Cersei.
In real life, Headey and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion) are friends; they worked together on Ultra (2006) and Pete Smalls is Dead (2010). Dinklage even recommended Headey to Game of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff.
10. Classic Narcissist
We might think she has psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies, one psychologist has “diagnosed” Cersei as a narcissist. And her “caring” for her brother and her children? It isn’t real love; she simply sees them as extensions of herself.
9. Backhanded Compliment
Cersei was ranked number one in the “30 Best Game of Thrones Villains” by Rolling Stone. The magazine called her, “the most dangerous human being in Westeros.” There is no question that Cersei is very good at being bad.
8. Boy Power
When Jaime and Cersei were children, Cersei would frequently pretend to be her brother so she could practice swordplay, and she frequently laments the restrictions placed on her because she was a woman.
7. No Retreat, No Surrender
Believing the Battle of Blackwater lost, Cersei coldly prepares to administer of vial of the poison nightshade to Tommen. To be fair, she planned to take it herself as well.
6. Tension on the Set
Headey and Jerome Flynn (who plays Bronn) dated once and it ended badly. In fact, the crew makes a decided effort to keep the two apart during filming.
5. Royal Feud
Cersei is no fan of Daenerys. Of course, they are both battling for the Iron Throne, but there are far more personal reasons for Cersei to hate the Mother of Dragons. Maggy the Frogg prophesied that Cersei would be forced from the Iron Throne by a queen who is both younger and more beautiful. Sound like anyone we know?
4. She’s a popular character
As of season 7, episode 5, Cersei has appeared in 57 of 65 episodes. The only character to appear in more episodes is her brother, Tyrion Lannister.
3. Name Game
Most women in Westeros take their husband’s surname. The only exception to this is the house currently holding the Iron Throne: those surnames can only be inherited by birth and not claimed by a marriage. As a result, Cersei was not allowed to take the name Baratheon. She probably didn’t object.
2. Her Lions
Women of the noble houses in the world of Westerns often wear something related to their house’s sigil. This is why Cersei is often shown wearing jewelry with images of lions, the sigil of House Lannister.
1. I’m Number One?
Cersei is one of the most hated characters on Game of Thrones. Lena Headey, the actress who plays Cersei, says that the hatred often spills into real life, and fans will call her names and shun her in public. At one autograph session with the rest of the cast, Headey claims she had books snatched out of her hands by fans who didn’t want her touching the tomes.