Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Queen resists trying new Throne

Queen Elizabeth meets cast members of the HBO TV series 'Game of Thrones' Lena Headey and Conleth Hill as she views some of the props including the Iron Throne on the set of Game of Thrones in Belfast's Titanic Quarter (Photo by Jonathan Porter - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth meets cast members of the HBO TV series 'Game of Thrones' Lena Headey and Conleth Hill as she views some of the props including the Iron Throne on the set of Game of Thrones in Belfast's Titanic Quarter (Photo by Jonathan Porter - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The Queen has resisted the urge to interfere in a bloody power battle on her trip to Northern Ireland.

A handshake with a former IRA commander might be socially and politically acceptable nowadays but the royal kept drama to a minimum on a tour of the Game Of Thrones sets in Belfast's former shipyard.

Given the chance to become part of the intrigue that has made the show a global hit and boosted the reputation of the region, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh followed protocol to the letter and politely declined.

The royal couple were introduced to leading members of the cast under the shadow of the Iron Throne of Westeros, with the Queen resisting any temptation and instead joking about how uncomfortable it looks.

Maisie Williams, the 17-year-old star who plays the spirited Arya Stark, was the first of the actors to chat to the monarch.

"She kept commenting on how uncomfortable the throne looked, that was funny," she said.

The coveted seat of power, said to be forged from 1,000 swords, remained empty for the visit with the Queen treating it with as much respect as her own throne in the House of Lords commands - only the ruler sits on it.

Buckingham Palace declined to say whether the Queen and Duke are fans of the show - known for its gratuitous violence and nude scenes as much as its political intrigue.

A spokeswoman said they were "interested to see the impact the filming has had on the local economy and the local skills and crafts that make the show".

To mark the visit to the Titanic studios, producers of the hit HBO series presented the royals with a miniature replica of the throne.

The tour included two of the impressive sets used in the show, including the Red Keep at King's Landing and the Throne Room.

Known for its Machiavellian narrative, Philip was not put off by the fantasy series and took to handling a selection of gleaming swords and knives while inspecting props.

They royals also took great interest in armoury and costumes that have helped build the cult following of the show, all of which is made locally.

Lena Headey, who plays Cersei Lannister, said she was overwhelmed and honoured by the royal visit.

"I don't think I've ever been as nervous to meet anybody. I didn't think I was, and then I saw her appear and I suddenly thought, 'it's the Queen, the real Queen'," she said.

"She was really cool and gorgeous and delightful.

"I think of everything she has done and everything she has achieved and the fact she is still interested even though she has met countless people and talked about numerous things."

The royals also met 18-year-old Sophie Turner, who plays Arya's elder and more reserved sister Sansa in the series, and Ballymena-born Conleth Hill, who plays the manipulative Lord Varys.

Hill first met the Queen on the day of her historic handshake with Martin McGuinness in the Lyric Theatre in Belfast two years ago.

"She didn't remember me but that's fine. She was lovely, very interested, inclusive of all of us," he said.

"They had just been to Crumlin so I think it is the two extremes of our history."

Kit Harrington, who plays Jon Snow, also spoke of the honour of being invited to meet the Queen.

"Being here and meeting the Queen, it's pretty amazing that the show has done that and she has come to see the sets. It gives it some sense of scale," he said.

"She is an incredible person. She has an incredible presence about her. To meet someone who has been on the throne as long as she has and has seen the things she has, it's quite an experience."

George RR Martin's epic story has brought £82 million to the Northern Ireland economy in the biggest television production in Europe - the equivalent of 900 full-time and 5,700 part-time jobs.

David Benioff and Dan Weiss, the show's executive producers and writers, led the tour through the Paint Hall which has furthered Northern Ireland's reputation as a go-to place for the film industry.

A strong crew base, stunning locations, studio facilities and financial incentives are ranking the region as one of the most sought-after filming locations for film and television productions.

The royals spent just over half an hour at the studios in the old shipyard area.

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