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<i>This article contains spoilers.</i>
The Last Kingdom is a popular television series recently released by the BBC.
It depicts the life of Uhtred, son of Uhtred, who is a fictional character based on an amalgamation of several historical characters, during the Dane invasions of England during the 9th century. The events depicted in <i>The Last Kingdom</i> were critical early steps in forging what became England. <i>The Last Kingdom</i> is a reference to the Kingdom of Wessex, which was the last Anglo-Saxon kingdom to stand in the way of Dane conquest of England. Uhtred is from Bebbanburgh (modern Bamburgh), a part of Northumbria. The season begins with Uhtred's father being killed in a battle at York, where Uhtred was taken as a slave by the Danes. Uhtred's uncle then usurps the control of Bebbanburgh, where Uhtred was the rightful heir.
==Anglo-Saxon and Danish History and Culture==
[[File:Winchester 13.jpeg|thumbnail|left|300px|Figure 1. Modern day Winchester, which served as the main capital of Wessex in the Anglo-Saxon period.]]
The Last Kingdom has done very credible job depicting Danes and Anglo-Saxons. While the Danes have often been to referred to as Vikings; the show makes it clear that they were more than just Vikings. The Danes willingness
of the Danes to settle in England demonstrated that unlike actual Vikings, they did did not want survive simply by raiding.<ref>For background on the Danes, see: Jones, G. (2001). <i>A history of the Vikings</i> (2nd ed). London ; New York: Oxford University Press.</ref> The Danes were are shown as more fun-loving, while the Anglo-Saxons are solemn and, at times, pious. This difference is a result of conflicting faiths of the Danes and Anglo-Saxons. The Danes at this time were polytheists and Anglo-Saxons were Christian. The series often depicts these cultural differences between the Danes and Anglo-Saxon and the resulting war between these societies as broader conflict between the Christian faith and the Danish gods. The character of Uhtred is used by the show to demonstrate this dichotomy. Uhtred, an Anglo-Saxon, prefers company with the Danes, but he later swears an oath to Alfred, king of Wessex and last remaining Anglo-Saxon king.
The Danish beliefs did not involve a strict moral code like Christianity. At times, this loose moral code
has shown that the Danes as could more playful than the Anglo-Saxons, but this lack of moral code also has a dark side. In one scene, the Danes killed the East Anglian king, Edmund, with a volley of arrows after he was captured.<ref>For more on Edmund, see: Pinner, R. (2015). <i>The Cult of St Edmond in Medieval East Anglia</i>. Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press.</ref> Not only did this event occur, but Edmund was canonized for it. Other Anglo-Saxon leaders are shown as tortured and murdered when captured and this would have likely occurred when Danes captured major leaders, although some would be spared to act as puppet leaders.
Many of the urban places are historical and the names used in the series reflects their Anglo-Saxon names. For instance, London and Reading are two cities mentioned. Wessex's primary town was Winchester (Figure 1), where most of the Wessex kings held court which is depicted in the series.<ref>For more on Winchester in the Anglo-Saxon period, see: Legg, P. (2011). <i>Winchester: history you can see</i>. Stroud: History.</ref> Winchester, in fact, was rival to London for a period as the capital of all of England.
[[File:Battle of Ethandun memorial - geograph.org.uk - 367815.jpeg|left|thumbnail|Figure 2. Memorial to the Battle of Edington in Bratton Castle.]]
After the battle at York, several other key battles occur during the series. The first is the battle where Alfred's brother (Æthelred), who was the king of Wessex, dies, although the Anglo-Saxons are successful in temporarily halting the Danish advance. There is truth to Alfred's brother perhaps being injured and killed in battle as depicted in the series. Rather than the son of Æthelred taking power, it was Alfred that was chosen, something unexpected and discussed in the series, as he was seen as more fit to rule. However, the battle where Æthelred is fatally injured might be fictionalized or
is based on several battles where the Anglo-Saxons did have some success in limiting the Danish advances. Still, Wessex failed to stop the Danes completely and had to pay off the Danes for temporary peace.<ref>For more on Alfred, see: Smyth, A. P. (1995). King Alfred the Great. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.</ref>
The next major encounter in the show was the Battle of Cynwit, which occurred in 878. The battle in the series depicts the Danes besieging the Wessex forces led by Odda the Elder. The Danish leader was Ubba, who was killed in the battle. The Danes had surrounded the Anglo-Saxon army on a hill and likely expected them to surrender, as they had little water, but the Wessex army attacked and were able to defeat Danish army. The Raven banner was taken by the Anglo-Saxon army and it was a major battle in which the Wessex king Alfred did not lead. In the series, the year of the battle is different and the credit for killing Ubba went to Uhtred. However, as shown in the series, it was an important battle for the Wessex kingdom and Odda was the likely leader of the battle. In effect, the Anglo-Saxons
being up on a hill and were still able to surprise and win the battle is accurate.<ref>For more on the Battle of Cynwit, see: Jones, G. (2001). A history of the Vikings (2nd ed). London ; New York: Oxford University Press, pg. 238.</ref>
The Danes attacked in January 878 the town of Chippenham, which is where Alfred held his court at the time. The series
depicts Winchester , the more common capital of Wessex , as being attacked. However, the attack did not occur there. The events, though, are generally accurate in that the Danes did attack in a surprising fashion at the height of winter, a period during when armies rested and did not launch invasions. Alfred was depicted as fleeing to the marshes of Somerset, barley escaping with his life, which was true and he did flee after the battle to hide from the Danes and reorganize his forces.<ref>For more on Alfred's flight to the marshes of Somerset, see: Swanton, M. (Ed.). (2003). The Anglo-Saxon chronicles (New ed., paperback rev. ed., 5. impr). London: Phoenix Press.</ref>
The next major encounter was the Battle of Edington (Figure 2), which pitted Guthrum of the Danes against Alfred. The Danes had likely assumed Alfred to be significantly weakened after being forced to flee. The battle was characterized by Alfred summoning his fyrds, or the popular army from different parts of his kingdom, that gathered to fight the Danes. This allowed Alfred to create a greater force and demonstrated he retained the loyalty of his ealdormen despite his earlier losses. Egbert's stone was used as the meeting point for the fyrds in the series as well as in the chronicles describing the events. In effect, much of these events are true historically. The battle, unlike the series, involved an encounter of the armies where the Danes were driven into a fort and were besieged afterwards. In the series, the main battle is only depicted and not the siege. In both cases, after Dane leader Guthrum was defeated
he was baptized, as a condition of the peace, and led his remaining army away. Eventually, the Danes formed another kingdom called Danelaw that represented areas where the Danes ruled for nearly another 100 years. For now, there was peace between Wessex and the Danes. The result was also the Danes were finally and decisively defeated, never to threaten Wessex seriously again.<ref>For more on the Battle of Edington, see: Hunter Blair, P. H., & Keynes, S. (2006). An introduction to Anglo-Saxon England (3. ed., repr). Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, pg. 111</ref> Arguably, this was the battle that may have prevented all of England falling to Danish hands in the 9th century.