Warning: spoilers for The Last Kingdom season 5.
The Last Kingdom season 5 takes place in 10and century in England, during the reign of Edward the Elder, but the show isn’t afraid to make changes from the real story. The Netflix show is an adaptation of Saxon storiesa series of novels by Bernard Cornwell. The Last Kingdom originally aired on British broadcaster BBC before Netflix acquired the show in 2018 and produced the final three seasons. Although season 5 is the last of the series, the story will end in the Netflix movie Seven kings must die.
As vikings before that, The Last Kingdom is a historical drama based on historical events and characters from the Viking Age. It follows the story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon) through several decades of English history. During The Last KingdomThroughout all five seasons, Uhtred serves King Alfred the Great and later his son, Edward the Elder. Like these two kings, many characters in the series have historical counterparts.
The Last Kingdom Season 5 sees Uhtred seek to reclaim his ancestral home of Bebbanburg and deal with his conflicted ties to the English and Danes. Throughout the season, several historical events unfold, such as the death of Lady Æthelflæd of Mercia in 918 AD. However, all events of The Last Kingdom season 5 are historically accurate. Here are all the crucial changes to the real-life story in the final season of The Last Kingdom.
Uhtred de Bebbanburg is based on a real person but makes changes
The Last KingdomThe protagonist of , Uhtred, is based on the historical character Uhtred the Bold. The author of Saxon stories, Bernard Cornwell, was inspired to write the series after discovering that he was a descendant of Uhtred the Bold. Beyond their name, there are similarities between The Last Kingdom‘s Uhtred and his real-life inspiration. Uhtred the Bold was the ealdorman of Northumbria from 1006 to 1016, and his family ruled from Bamburgh Castle – the historical equivalent of Bebbanburg.
Ultimately, however, The Last Kingdom‘s Uhtred is an imaginary character. The show is set a hundred years before the reign of Uhtred the Bold and heightens Uhtred’s ties to the Danes. While some historians suggest that Uhtred the Bold had Scandinavian ancestry, The Last Kingdom‘s Uhtred was brought up by Danes after his father died. This results in Uhtred dividing allegiances between Danes and Saxons, providing the show with constant dramatic tension. The character of Uhtred is also partly inspired by Ealdred I of Bamburgh, who ruled in the early 10th century. According to The History of Sancto CuthbertoEaldred was a friend of Edward the Elder due to their fathers’ relationship. The Last KingdomThe latest episode teases that the friendship between Uhtred and Edward will be tested after Uhtred proclaims that Northumbria will be independent from Edward’s England. Despite Uhtred’s tenuous ties to actual Northumbrian rulers, his character is one of the most historically inaccurate in the series.
Brida’s invasion of Jorvik did not take place
Brida (Emily Cox) is a fictional character from The Last Kingdom. Although she was raised with Uhtred and considered him family, The Last Kingdom season 5, she swears revenge on Uhtred. One of the first steps in his revenge is to attack his children. She cruelly castrates her son Young Uhtred and then takes control of Jorvik, where Uhtred’s daughter Stiorra rules with Sigtrygrr. However, in 918 when The Last Kingdom season 5 takes place, Jorvik was a growing town ruled by Ragnall (more on him later). The Great Heathen Army led by Ivar the Boneless (the same Ivar described in vikingslisten)) invaded York in 866 and made it the capital of the Viking kingdom in England. As a result, Jorvik’s borders were not attacked by English forces until the time of The Last Kingdom season 5, no more Danish invaders like Brida’s army. It was not until 927, when Æthelstan attacked the city, that York fell back into English hands. However, in the series, Edward takes control of Jorvik and institutes Rognvaldr as acting lord of the city. As a result, The Last Kingdom speeds up the true story of Jorvik to bring Edward closer to his dream of a unified England.
Sigtrygrr and Rognvaldr are changed from their historical counterparts
The Last Kingdom season 5 introduces Rognvaldr, Sigtrygrr’s conniving brother. Rognvaldr is roughly based on Ragnall ua Ímair, the Danish king of Northumbria and the Isle of Mann in the 10th century. Meanwhile, Sigtrygrr takes inspiration from Ragnall’s relative, Sitric Cáech. Both men were fearsome Viking rulers and led separate fleets to invade Ireland in 917. After successful battles, Sitric established himself as king in Dublin, while Ragnall returned to England and became king in Jorvik.
In the story, it seems Ragnall was more opposed to Saxon rule than Sitric, as he had conflicts with the Christian Vikings and Æthelflæd of Mercia. The show reaffirms this, as Rognvaldr terrorizes the Christians of Jorvik and aids Brida in her war against them. However, The Last Kingdom departs from history by reversing the order of their reigns over the city. In 921 Ragnall died and Sitric supplanted him as king of Jorvik. Whereas after Sigtrygrr’s death in the series, Edward places Rognvaldr as ruler in York, though he must acknowledge Edward as his overlord. Another slight change the show enforces is Sigtrygrr’s wife. In The Last Kingdom, Sigtrygrr marries Uhtred’s daughter, Stiorra, in a romantic arrangement that helps broker peace between Saxon and Dane. Instead, the real Sitric made peace with the Anglo-Saxons when he married a sister of Æthelstan in 926. The Last Kingdomtherefore, change the story in order to intertwine the fates of England and Uhtred.
Æthelstan’s upbringing was very different
By the time Sitric married Æthelstan’s sister, Æthelstan had succeeded his father Edward the Elder as king of the Anglo-Saxons and would become the first king of a unified England the following year. Although Edward is still alive in The Last Kingdom end of season 5, the climactic film Seven kings must die can see Æthelstan’s coronation. The Last Kingdom season 5 focuses on the complicated politics surrounding the succession of Edward’s crown. In both show and story, Æthelstan is Edward’s only son by his first wife Ecgwynn. In The Last Kingdom, Ecgwynn and Edward marry. However, due to his ignoble birth, Æthelstan and his sister are taken away from their parents.
During the time skip before The Last Kingdom season 5, Edward entrusts Uhtred with raising Æthelstan. The real Æthelstan also had a distant relationship with his father since his position had weakened after Edward’s later marriages and children. Nevertheless, Æthelstan was probably educated by his aunt and uncle, Æthelflæd and Æthelred. It is also presumed that he received military training during the Mercian campaigns against the Danes. Despite this, The Last KingdomUhtred’s choice to raise Æthelstan is a wise one. It reinforces the bond between Uhtred and Æthelstan while explaining how Æthelstan is able to hold his own in battle while training under a hardened warrior, like Uhtred. Their relationship can be crucial in Seven kings must diefor Uhtred will likely jump at the chance to support the future king when the time for succession comes around.
King Constantine II of Scotland did not fight Edward
In The Last Kingdom season 5, Æthelhelm appeals to King Constantine of Scotland in his scheme to see his grandson Ælfweard become King of Wessex and Mercia. Their plot, which involves capturing Ælfwynn and marrying him to Constantine, ultimately culminates in the Battle of Bebbanburg where Uhtred finally fulfills his destiny. Although this plot (and Æthelhelm’s plots) is fictional, King Constantine of Scotland was a real person and waged war in Northumbria in 918, the year The Last Kingdom season 5 takes place. However, Constantine’s war was fought against Ragnall ua Ímair, not Edward the Elder. After the Battle of Corbridge, Constantine retired to Scotland, while Ragnall crowned himself King of York and Northumbria. Constantine’s Scotland was later invaded by King Æthelstan in 934.
Ælfwynn’s story is exaggerated for show
In the real-life story, Lady Æthelflæd of Mercia died of an unspecified illness at Tamworth during her campaign against the Vikings. In The Last Kingdom, Æthelflæd dies in Aylesbury of a “canker” – the Old English term for cancer. The show accurately portrays Æthelflæd’s desire for his daughter Ælfwynn to rule as Lady as Mercia after he is gone. While female leaders were rare in medieval times, one woman succeeding another was even rarer. Nevertheless, the real Ælfwynn ruled Mercia for six to eighteen months, depending on the interpretation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is right.
In the series, Æthelflæd’s dying wish to see Ælfwynn rule Mercia is complicated by the exaggerated power struggle that ensues after his death. Æthelhelm plots to see his grandson Ælfweard enthroned as ruler of Mercia and bribes many ealdormen. To seize power, King Edward assassinates the Mercian ealdormen. During the power vacuum, Ælfwynn was imprisoned in Bebbanburg. While Edward’s actions in the series strengthen his character and prove his relentless pursuit of his father’s dream for a unified England, they fall short of the limited historical understanding of the period. The show can be excused for its treatment of Ælfwynn, however, as his capture ultimately leads to The Last KingdomUhtred’s final battle which allows Uhtred to reclaim his ancestral home and complete his character arc.
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