Viewers of House of the Dragon who have read through author George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series may be pleasantly surprised. Back in Game of Thrones, the depiction of the Iron Throne was quite different from Martin’s original vision. In this series, with Martin closely involved, the Throne looks much more imposing as it was originally envisioned.
The Iron Throne is an important symbol of monarchy in the Game of Thrones series. Aegon the Conqueror forged when he built the Red Keep. It stands as a reminder of the fate of the ones who stood against the throne. In episode 1, it is King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) who sits on the throne.
He chooses his daughter Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) as his heir rather than his brother Daemon (Matt Smith). During a confrontation between Viserys and Daemon, Viserys loses his cool and cuts his finger on the throne. In another scene, he says he has a cut on his back from sitting on the throne, which refuses to heal. Though the implication of an unhealed cut is never good, the significance of being cut by the throne stretches further.
History of the Iron Throne
Aegon the Conqueror ordered the forging of The Iron Throne when he conquered six of the seven kingdoms of Westeros. The throne was allegedly forged from the 1,000 swords of the lords who had offered their fealty. The actual number of swords is less than two hundred. These were melted down by the fiery breath of Aegon’s dragon, Balerion the Black Dread. They were beaten and bent into a throne surrounded by swords protruding from the ground. They decorated the steps as well. At some point during or before the reign of Aerys II Targaryen, many of the swords were removed.
Aegon made the throne in such a way that no ruler would ever be able to sit on it comfortably. He believed that it was not the job of a king to be comfortable but rather to be restless and always in service of the realm. A skillful ruler would always be calm and relaxed no matter what perils befell him, so the throne was designed with this in mind. If a ruler ever got cut by the throne, it was assumed that he was not worthy of sitting on it. A chapter in the book series discloses Eddard Stark’s thoughts on this when he sat on the throne.
“A king should never sit easy, Aegon the Conqueror had said, when he commanded his armorers to forge a great seat from the swords laid down by his enemies.”
The Iron Throne reminds us that powerful people can’t afford to become lazy and comfortable
Viserys’ predecessor, Jaehaerys, who we see in episode 1, established a long time of peace. This meant that the entirety of Viserys’ reign was also peaceful. However, Viserys was still plagued by concerns, such as that of his heir. He received a cut on his back from sitting on the Iron throne that refused to heal. The Grand Maester theorized that it could be due to ‘ill humors of the mind’ that caused the issue.
The second time the throne cut him was during his confrontation with Daemon. After the death of his son, Viserys heard that Daemon had made a joke about it, calling him the ‘heir for a day.’ Enraged, Viserys summoned Daemon into the throne room to answer for the allegation and exiled him to Runestone. Daemon leaves after calling Viserys weak, and this is when the throne cuts Viserys.
Kings that were cut by the throne in the past
There are other kings that have been cut from the throne, all of whom were considered unworthy to rule. One of these was Maegor the Cruel, who was said to have died from the cuts that the throne gave him. This was recounted by Varys in one of the episodes of Game of Thrones.
“Aegon’s own son, Maegor the Cruel, was killed by the very Iron Throne his father had forged. If you believe the tales. If you don’t, then perhaps “The Cruel” is not a wise name for a king to earn.”
Maegor was found dead sitting on the Iron Throne. The history books of Westeros do not confirm how he died. In some versions of the tale, he was murdered by the Iron Throne, while others suspect he was poisoned. The most likely scenario is that Maegor slit open his own wrists on the throne itself and bled to death.
Another ruler to be cut by the throne was the Mad King Aerys. He was nicknamed King Scab because he cut himself on the throne so often. It is said that his arms and legs were always covered with scabs and half-healed cuts from the throne. At this point in time, Aerys was said to be so paranoid that he refused to let anyone near him to treat him or even trim his hair and nails. Jaime Lannister is quoted in the books as saying :
“Yet still the blades tormented him, the ones he could never escape, the blades of the Iron Throne. His arms and legs were always covered with scabs and half-healed cuts.”
The Iron Throne seems to reject unworthy rulers
Joffrey Baratheon was also cut by the throne in the aftermath of the Battle of the Blackwater. At this time, many new knights and lords were made. Rebels were brought before Joffrey and asked to swear fealty, which most of them did. However, one specific man refused to do so and called Joffrey a monster. Joffrey was agitated and called for the man’s head, simultaneously cutting himself on the Iron Throne. In the books, Tyrion compared Joffrey to Aerys when he said :
“Not Robert the Second. Aerys the Third”
The legacy of the Iron Throne is made clear when Viserys warns his daughter about it in Episode 1. He says to her :
A dragon’s saddle is one thing, but the Iron Throne is the most dangerous seat in the realm.
In the book series, Tyrion expressed a similar sentiment when he worried about Daenerys ascending the throne.
“If Daenerys is no more than a sweet young girl,” he says, “the Iron Throne will cut her into sweet young pieces.”