Power Games

What does the Swedish 16th century monarch Eric XIV have in common with Queen Elizabeth I and Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones? In a new exhibition at The Royal Armoury in Stockholm, the three characters are united in a story of power, war, and love.

Queens and kings, knights and warriors, elves and dwarfs, witches and sorcerers. History is an infinite source of inspiration for makers of contemporary popular culture; from movies and TV-series to games, books, and fashion. Lord of the Rings, Shekar Kapur’s movies about Queen Elizabeth I, and success series such as The Borgias and Game of Thrones are just a few examples of how contemporary culture borrows from the past. Set up as a costume drama in three acts, the exhibition Power Games, now on view at The Royal Armoury in Stockholm, brings together historical and fictional characters, all united by the eternal themes of power, war, and love. With the Swedish monarch Eric XIV, Queen Elizabeth I of England, and Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones as the main characters, the exhibition focuses on how contemporary culture constantly borrows from the past, consequently making history relevant again in a modern context.

Taking place in the fictional world of Westeros, Game of Thrones brings together references to a great number of historical time periods, fashions, and events. In Shekar Kapur’s two movies about Queen Elizabeth I, Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Cate Blancett enacts the life of the mythical English queen. Based on historical characters, events, and dresses, the two movies fictionalizes history into a drama adapted to the eyes of the contemporary viewer.


When it comes to Eric XIV, pictured in Beata Boucht’s illustration above, reality seems to surpass fiction. Contemporary to Elizabeth I, the Swedish monarch lived a life full of drama and myth. He was declared insane, married his commoner mistress and had his enemies murdered in a brutal manner. Included in the exhibition are the garments worn by his rival Erik Sture when he was brutally killed by the king himself.

In the exhibition, costumes and armour from the Game of Thrones series and the two Elizabeth movies are shown side by side with clothing worn by Eric XIV and his contemporaries. Together with movie clips, images, and illustrations, the exhibition blurs the line between past and present, reality and fiction. In connection to the exhibition, The Royal Armoury also asked textile design students from Stockholm art school Konstfack to present their interpretation of power and dress. Exploring how textile and clothing can be used as a wielding of power, the students created an enthralling collection of garments, fusing historical influences with contemporary materials and expressive aesthetics.

Power Games will be on view at The Royal Armoury in Stockholm until January 4 2015. 

Illustrations by Beata Boucht. The details of the top illustration are used for props and signs in the exhibition.