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The Real Game of Thrones

article-imageJean Auguste Dominique Ingres, “Napoleon I on the Imperial Throne” (1806), oil on canvas (via Musée de l’Armée) 

In our anticipation for Sunday’s premiere of Game of Thrones season four, today we take a look at some of history’s real life thrones that give the Iron Throne a run for its money. The history of human rule has left behind a lot of ostentatious seats of power. They might not exhibit the fantastically overt metaphors put forth by the jagged seat of the Seven Kingdoms, but from unicorn horns to an actual passage for serfs to crawl under, these royal seats leave little doubt about the attitudes and eccentricities of their rulers. 

Throne of Denmark

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Christian VIII and Caroline Amalie, with Christian in the unicorn throne, painted by Joseph-Désiré Court (1841) (via Statens Museum for Kunst)

Sure, any king or emperor can commission a gold throne or one of fine marble, but the Throne of Denmark is much rarer. Unicorn horns border the coronation seat, and if that weren’t enough, there are also three life-size silver lions inspired by the 12 lions said to guard the Throne of Solomon. Of course, they aren’t actually unicorn horns but narwhal tusks, which is still a pretty awesome material to craft your power chair. 

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The unicorn throne (photograph by Sven Rosborn)

King Edward’s Chair

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Engraving of the chair from 1855 (via Wikimedia); King Edward’s Chair in Westminster Abbey (photograph by Kjetil Bjørnsrud)

King Edward’s Chair in England’s Westminster Abbey takes it a step further and has another country’s throne lodged inside of it. The Gothic oak throne dates to 1296 and was commissioned by King Edward I to include the Stone of Scone — the coronation stone of Scotland — in the place right below his behind. The stone has since been returned to Scotland, but it still journeys back to London for all coronations, the last being Elizabeth II in 1953. 

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The Stone of Scone replica in Scotland (photograph by Aly1963/Flickr user)

Marble Throne

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The Marble Throne (via Wikimedia)

The Marble Throne — or Takht-e marmar — of Tehran, Iran, is sculpturally awesome with 65 marble components including men, women, and magical creatures supporting its platform. The open-air terrace in the Golestan Palace around it continues the decadence with mirrors on all sides. Built between 1747 and 1751, it makes quite the impressive regal room. 

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The Marble Throne in the hall of mirrors  (photograph by Philippe Chavin)

Charlemagne’s Throne

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The throne in Aachen Cathedral (photograph by Holger Weinandt)

The Throne of Charlemagne — commissioned by Charlemagne himself in the 790s — might not look like much compared to these others with its stern stone structure. However, the elevated seat includes a passage below it so people could stoop down or crawl beneath to show their reverence. The marble and the steps may even have been removed from Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. 

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The Aachen throne (via Wikimedia)

The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly

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The throne in the Smithsonian (photograph by ellenm1/Flickr user)

You don’t necessarily have to be crowned sovereign of a nation to have a throne — or at least that was the case with James Hampton. From 1950 to 1964, Hampton built his imagined Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly (he was self-anointed St. James, Director of Special Projects for the State of Eternity) in a garage. Although constructed from materials like old lightbulbs, tinfoil, and coffee cans, it would rival any kingdom’s throne. When Hampton passed away the throne was discovered in its obscurity and it now has its own space to preside over in the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. 

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The throne in the Smithsonian (photograph by ellenm1/Flickr user)