Rule number one for surviving the viking ‘Great Army’ invasion of 865 — don’t give the enemy a reason to shoot arrows at you. Somehow, King Edmund of East Anglia missed the memo, both in real life and in the Netflix series The Last Kingdom.
No matter who you were in the ancient world, the seasons were of vital importance. You marked the ebb and flow of time by your harvests, which ensured your survival or demise. While the typical ancient person went through life believing gladiator blood cured epilepsy or that tiny demons lived in cabbage, they were at least on top of seasonal changes. And it didn’t escape their attention that after the longest night, daylight began to creep back into their lives.
One such character is Judith, a virtuous and dutiful Northumbrian princess. She weds Aethelwulf, son of King Ecbert and prince of Wessex, in an arranged marriage. While there isn’t smoldering chemistry between the two, they seem more or less accepting of the arrangement. Until Athelstan enters the picture.
This, one would think, would be enough revenge for one queen. But not Olga of Kiev. Now, with her position made clear, the real destruction could begin. A war between the two nations broke out, with Olga’s side too formidable to defeat in battle. After the initial conflict, her army drove the survivors back into their cities and marched on Iskorosten to lay siege to the city. After a year passed with no success, Olga hatched a plan that was as creative as it was devious.
When author Bernard Cornwell discovered that among his distant ancestors was an ealdorman named Uhtred who held Bebbanburg, he decided he wanted to weave that into his story. The Uhtred who lived held court in the early 10th century, over 100 years after The Last Kingdom’s events, and nothing much is known about him. Our fictional hero’s remarkable upbringing and adventures are just that — fiction. But we like to think the real Uhtred had his fair share of escapades, too.
The Netflix series The Last Kingdom is often compared to Game of Thrones, and for good reason — both are inspired by real British history. But while GoT took the War of the Roses as a loose template for the War of the Five Kings and threw ice zombies, dragons, and dire wolves at it, The Last Kingdom traces fascinating true events by focusing on legendary figures who really lived, weaving a bit of believable mysticism in along the way.
Not long after that, she led her troops in a campaign against the Danes at Derby and was victorious. The following year she took Leicester without a fight, and shortly after that York declared allegiance to her. Aethelflaed was quickly amassing the forces to take on anyone, including her brother, King Edward.