A Real Life Iron Throne in the British Museum

The Iron Throne might be literature’s most coveted chairs as the players and the pawns of GRRM’s notoriously bloody series of books A Song of Ice and Fire more commonly known by its televisial adaptations moniker of Game of Thrones scheme and plot and battle for this most spiky of seats.

(Yes, we do know it’s not that pleasant to sit on, thanks to an interview with Michelle Fairley who plays Catelyn Stark who has said -and I quote- “It’s really uncomfortable.”)

In the books, and indeed in the TV show too, the throne is more than just a chair and a symbol of sovereignty. Forged from the swords of the conquered in dragon’s breath, it is formidable ferrous chair that makes a very clear statement: the right to rule comes from conquest.

There is an underlying message in the Throne too, a king should never sit easily.

But what do I mean when I say that there is a real life iron throne?

Am I talking about the one that’s on tour as part of the Game of Thrones exhibition?

No, I’m talking about an object that is on display in the African Galleries of the British Museum. Made in 2001 by Cristovado Canhavato, the Throne of Weapons has quite a few parallels with the fictional Throne of Westeros.

The Throne of Weapons

The Throne of Weapons

Both of the thrones are made from weapons, that much is obvious. Both of them show that the path to power is often brutal and bloody. Both of them look particularly uncomfortable.

The Throne of Weapons

The Throne of Weapons

More interestingly, although both chairs are composed of weaponry, both represent a kind of peace and unity. One throne combined the Seven Kingdoms into one, the other shows a willingness to give up arms. The Throne of Weapons was made as part of a project called Transforming Arms into Tools in which weapons used by combatants on both sides of Mozambique’s civil war were voluntarily exchanged for agricultural, domestic and construction tools.

The Throne of Weapons

The Throne of Weapons

George RR Martin has drawn from history in his writing of A Song of Ice and Fire. It is known. Given some of the similarities between our two thrones here, it is tempting to think that Martin might have seen it on his travels, but alas, sadly not. The first installment of A Song of Ice and Fire was published way, way back in 1996 – the Throne of Weapons was not made until 2001 and wasn’t acquired by the British Museum until 2002.

I wonder if there are any other thrones that have incorporated weapons into their designs out there?

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4 responses to “A Real Life Iron Throne in the British Museum

  1. I read about this object last year in an article written by Neil MacGregor. Immediately the first thing I thought of when I saw it was Game of Thrones. Being unfamiliar with the books it is interesting read about the comparative symbolism as well as aesthetics.

    Perhaps the most poignant insight from the article was the fact that every gun it is constructed out of comes from either a British or American factory. Not only is it a fine example of African war traditions and a celebration of the peace that they are now experiencing, it is a chilling reminder of the role and consequences that the actions of cultures can often, unwittingly, have on others. There is a truth or a metaphor for truth in the Throne of Weapons for everyone to discover about their own societies. It is a truly unique and universal museum object.

    Thank you for returning it to the surface of my thoughts 🙂

    • Thank you for your really thoughtful comment – it is a very powerful and thought provoking object and I’m hoping that people will take the time to click on the link and discover more about it.

      Thanks again.

  2. Pingback: Family Friendly Museum Awards 2014: The Finalists | Jack's Adventures in Museum Land·

  3. Pingback: An Adventure in the Hungarian National Museum | Jack's Adventures in Museum Land·

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