The United Kingdom's 88-year-old monarch toured the Belfast sets of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones and met many of its stars Tuesday beside the show's sword-covered seat of power, the Iron Throne.
Unlike many visitors to Belfast's Titanic Studios, the monarch declined to try out the throne created for the ruler of the mythical Seven Kingdoms. Instead, she received a miniature model as a gift.
Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss escorted the monarch through the show's armory, costume design and storage, and sprawling sets used to shoot the program's interior scenes and perilous ice-cliff ascents – all part of the biggest TV production ever mounted in Europe.
The real-life head of the House of Windsor talked with actors involved in the show's primary royal rivals, the Lannisters and the Starks: Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister, queen regent of the Seven Kingdoms), Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner (sisters Arya and Sansa Stark), Kit Harington (Jon Snow, the Starks' half brother) and Rose Leslie (Snow's star-crossed lover, Ygritte).
The Game of Thrones tour was just one of several events for Elizabeth on the second day of a three-day visit to Northern Ireland, where two decades of relative peace now allow the U.K.'s ceremonial head of state to travel with much greater openness. That was demonstrated as she toured Belfast's gloriously restored Victorian market – and a teenage boy jumped forward to take a selfie of himself with the startled monarch.
In a speech at Belfast City Hall, Elizabeth lauded leaders of the rival British Protestant and Irish Catholic sides of the community for forging a unity government in 2007. She noted that her previous visit to the city hall came a half-century ago following her 1953 coronation, long before a four-decade conflict over Northern Ireland that left 3,700 dead.
"We have learned a lot in those years about ourselves, each other, and how societies can only grow and flourish if they are built on trust, respect, justice and interdependence," she said.