Belfast Telegraph

Why ascend a fantasy throne when real one is sitting at home?

By Rebecca Black

All eyes were on the Queen at Titanic Studios yesterday as she inched closer to one of the most famous thrones on television. The Iron Throne – made out of melted down swords of defeated enemies – is the focus of Game Of Thrones. The most powerful families in the fictional world of Westeros vie to sit on it.

So it was with bated breath that actors, dignitaries and media watched Her Majesty climb the steps to the throne and examine it before being ushered away, prompting an almost audible sigh.

The Queen and Prince Philip were welcomed to Titanic Studios – known as the Painthall – by East Belfast MP Naomi Long, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, executive producers and writers of Game Of Thrones.

The royal couple were given a short overview of the smash-hit series and the incredible effect it has had on Northern Ireland, generating £82m for the local economy and creating more than 900 full-time jobs and 5,700 part-time jobs.

Game Of Thrones has additionally showcased some of our most beautiful scenery – from the Mournes to Shane's Castle to Ballycastle – across the world. The royal tour of the set yesterday morning included viewing samples of many of the swords used in the filming as well as clothes, armour and jewellery, which were made by local craftsmen.

Moving into the Throne room, Her Majesty met with some of the principle cast members from Game Of Thrones.

They included Lena Headey who plays Queen Cersei, Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Rose Leslie (Ygritte), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) as well as local actor Conleth Hill, who plays Lord Varys.

Ms Headey, who also starred in the movies 300 and Dredd, said that meeting the Queen was "overwhelming".

Her character Cersei is known for her scheming ways. She added that it was exciting to meet a real Queen, revealing Her Majesty asked her what the Iron Throne was like to sit on.

"They introduced me as the Queen on the show which felt very weird," she laughed. "First of all she asked about the throne, that it looked jolly uncomfortable, which it is. I wanted to hug her, but stopped myself. She's just lovely and so much humour. She's beautiful."

Teenage actresses Sophie and Maisie said they never thought they would have the opportunity to meet the Queen, describing it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Sophie – who performed an elegant curtsy – as she greeted the Queen said: "She's just as gracious as you hear, I thought she was really lovely."

But the girls – whose characters are tormented by Cersei in the series – joked: "Another Queen to contend with."

Hill, from Ballycastle, plays key court official Lord Varys. He said he never expected a production as big as Game Of Thrones in the province.

"I remember being in New York in 2000 where I saw The Sopranos and thinking I would love to be involved with that, but I didn't want to uproot and live away from home," he said.

"Game Of Thrones is a great employer and brings great tourism here. I think tourism is the future and all the television and film productions now here are a great advertisement."

Producers Benioff and Weiss said they enjoyed showing the Queen around.

"We were a bit nervous before, obviously because it is the Queen, but she couldn't have been more interested and curious. She was very sweet, which made it fun," said Mr Benioff.

While Her Majesty may have resisted sitting on the Iron Throne, she was given a small replica of it as a gift as she left.

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