Why the UK takes 'Game of Thrones' so seriously

A scene from "Game of Thrones."PlayHBO
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The final season of "Game of Thrones" has finally begun, and fans the world over are rejoicing. But U.K. fans in particular look at the show as deeply intertwined with both British history, and the travails of modern Britain.

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References to the show have even been made by prominent politicians.

In a recent warning about what’s at stake in delicate Brexit negotiations, Environment Secretary Michael Gove warned, “Winter is coming.” Gove -- who was branded “Machiavelli” in 2016 after betraying his political ally Boris Johnson in the Conservative leadership race -- said that his favorite character was the shrewd operative Tyrion Lannister.

PHOTO: The Battle of Towton during the War of the Roses, 1461. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The Battle of Towton during the War of the Roses, 1461.

Is "Game of Thrones" inspired by England’s bloody history?

George R. R. Martin has said that “Thrones” is loosely based on the bloody feuds of medieval warring factions as they battled for the English throne in the 15th century.

The Wars of the Roses saw the rival Houses of Lancaster (sounds a bit like Lannister?) and York (Stark?) and their supporters fight for decades, and certain characters and events in the fictional series bear similarities to key moments in British history.

PHOTO: Gwendoline Christie appears in the eighth season of Game of Thrones. Helen Sloan/HBO
Gwendoline Christie appears in the eighth season of "Game of Thrones."

Martin also revealed to Entertainment Weekly that Joffrey Baratheon’s death was loosely based on the assassination of Prince Eustace, son of King Stephen of England, who ruled in the 1100s.

Because the Scots have their own bloody history to rival the English, the shocking events of the Red Wedding were inspired by the infamous “Black Dinner,” and the massacre of Glencoe, according to Martin.

The teenage Earl William Douglas was invited to dinner by his rival King James II, where, as legend has it, he and his brother were brutally murdered.

In the massacre at Glencoe, hundreds of soldiers allied with English King William III marched to Scotland, receiving hospitality from the MacDonald clan before attacking them.

The Wall in the fantasy series that separates the North from the rest of Westeros bears an obvious resemblance to Hadrian’s Wall, which has come to represent the border between Scotland (would this make Scots the inspiration for the Wildlings?) and England.

The Brexit effect?

Many of the show’s film locations, including Dorne, Winterfell and the Riverlands, took place in Northern Ireland. It is estimated that the franchise has contributed more than 150 million pounds to the Northern Irish economy, according to The Irish News.

There were fears that Brexit would affect the show’s shooting schedule in Northern Ireland, because its filming locations meant the series was eligible for money from the European Regional Development Fund.

Kit Harington as Jon Snow on Season 8 of Game of Thrones. HBO
Kit Harington as Jon Snow on Season 8 of "Game of Thrones."

There are lingering doubts about whether Brexit, when it eventually happens, will impact the show’s future financing in the U.K., as prequels to the series have already been announced.

How obsessed are Brits with “Game of Thrones”?

A recent poll asked Brits if they were considering calling in sick to work on Monday, April 15, because of the “Game of Thrones” season premiere. Because of licensing, Game of Thrones episodes are scheduled to be simulcast with airtime on HBO in the U.S. -- that’s every Monday morning at 2 a.m. U.K. time.

The poll found an estimated 3 million Brits may call in sick after staying up all night to watch the show.

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