Admin moved page How Historically Accurate is season 1 of The Last Kingdom? to How Historically Accurate is season 1 of The Last Kingdom
220px|left|<i>The Last Kingdom</i>]]__NOTOC__<i>This article contains spoilers .</i>
[[How Historically Accurate is Season 2 of Last Kingdom?|
Check out our Season 2 summary.]] __NOTOC__The Last Kingdom is a popular television series recently released by the BBC and the show has strived to portray an accurate depiction of the time and reign of Alfred the Great. It is based on the <i>[ https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LEYI47C/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00LEYI47C&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=5896bb38392fa928ad7836385dccf0d Saxon Tales]</i> series written by Bernard Cornwell. The first season is drawn from the first two books in the series. The show focuses 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 first episode focuses on the Danish characters, while they do act cruel to the Anglo-Saxons they are also fun loving and one of them, Earl Ragner, shows much affection to Uhtred. During the first episode, Uhtred's father and his army are slaughtered by the Danes soon after they arrive by sea. The first episode portrays the Anglo-Saxons as unprepared for war with the Danes and too dependent on their priests. There is some truth to this, the Anglo-Saxon army lacked professional warriors and the show states that the Danes believed the English were primarily farmers. In the first battle of the show, the Anglo-Saxons lost the battle because they were incapable of defeating a Danish shield wall. However, the Anglo-Saxon armies most likely were capable of properly forming a shield wall and they would not have been completely confounded by it. At this point, the Anglo-Saxons would have been well aware of Danish war tactics, even if they were not well prepared for them. The show ignored this reality because it allowed the lead character, Uhtred, to teach the Anglo-Saxons later in the season to both form and defeat a shield wall. In this case, historical accuracy was sacrificed to create a more compelling story.<ref>For more on Anglo-Saxon fighting methods, see: Lavelle, R. (2010). <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1843837390/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1843837390&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=6a8e3107364e1ba075415588f71b524a Alfred’s wars: sources and interpretations of Anglo-Saxon warfare in the Viking age]</i> Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.</ref>
The Last Kingdom has done a very credible job depicting Danes and Anglo-Saxons. While the Danes have often been called as Vikings, the show makes it clear that they were more than just Vikings. The Danes willingness to settle in England demonstrated that unlike actual Vikings, they did not want to survive simply by raiding. The Danish characters make it clear that they left Denmark because it was inhospitable to farming and there is truth to the fact that climatic events may have also contributed to increased Danish raids and invasions during this time.<ref>For background on the Danes, see: Jones, G. (2001). <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0192801341/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0192801341&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=ff5b5676acff27932d33829e68aa84b0 A history of the Vikings]</i> (2nd ed). London ; New York: Oxford University Press.</ref>
The Danes were not just savage in battle but showed more creativeness and ability to adapt to their new environment. The Anglo-Saxons could best be described as solemn, pious and fairly dreary. This difference results from the 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 a broader conflict between the Christian faith and the Danish gods. This is certainly how Alfred described the struggle and there is historical accuracy, as also described by the <i> Anglo-Saxon Chronicle</i>, which is the primary historical source. The character of Uhtred is used to demonstrate this dichotomy. Uhtred, an Anglo-Saxon, prefers company with the Danes, but he later swears an oath to Alfred, king of Wessex the last remaining Anglo-Saxon king.
The Danish beliefs did not involve a strict moral code like Christianity. At times, this loose moral code allowed the Danes to be 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. The Danes were testing whether Edmund's god was as powerful as he claimed. <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. The Danes were fairly ruthless when they captured Anglo leaders, but the accurately depicts that some would be spared if they cooperated with the Danes and provided them with food, silver and land.
Some of the terms used in the series were words prevalent at the time. This includes terms such as plowing a field having sexual connotations. Another term is <i>arseling</i>, used as a playful or sometimes mocking term of Uhtred by his friend Leofric, which also would have been a term used at the time meaning "from the ass."<ref>For more on Anglo-Saxon terms, see: Baker, P. S. (2012). <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/047065984X/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=047065984X&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=9be15e3cc90a4d0002c6a94f24e5cb09 Introduction to Old English]</i> (3rd ed). Chichester, West Sussex ; Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.</ref> Such terms and expressions were, in fact, contemporary to the period.
The Danes also attacked in January 878 the town of Chippenham, which is where Alfred held his court at the time. The series diverges from reality and has the Danes attacking Winchester instead. The show had already established Winchester as the capital of Wessex and most likely sought to simplify the narrative instead of adding a new location for this battle. 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, where he was lucky to escape with his life. This was true and he did flee after the battle to hide from the Danes and he reorganized his forces in the swamps during the spring of that year.<ref>For more on Alfred's flight to the marshes of Somerset, see: Swanton, M. (Ed.). (2003). <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1842120034/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1842120034&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=b5fbdbcca650380456541d76d5bb74d3 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles]</i> (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. Once again, the ability for the Saxons to muster a large force and launch an attack likely surprised the Danes. 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 as a pitched encounter and the siege was not shown.
In both cases, after Dane leader Guthrum was defeated and baptized, as a condition of the peace, the Danes led their remaining army away. Eventually, the Danes formed another kingdom called Danelaw that represented areas where the Danes ruled for nearly another 100 years. This was based on a treaty with Alfred, where areas north of Wessex and in East Anglia represented Danelaw. For some years, there was peace between Wessex and the Danes. Alfred, after this time,
build the boroughs, which were fortifications that helped protect Wessex. While relatively simple, these fortifications helped strengthen Wessex and made it more difficult for later Danish invasions. Although the invasions against Wessex continued, no serious threat ever occurred by Danish forces against Wessex.<ref>For more on the Battle of Edington, see: Hunter Blair, P. H., & Keynes, S. (2006). <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0521537770/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0521537770&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=c7f4a0f8d82609fab94dd2527fcc39ad An introduction to Anglo-Saxon England]</i> (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.
There are a number of historical figures shown in the series on both the Danish and Anglo-Saxon sides. These include Ubba and Guthrum, who were fearsome Danish warlords, and Alfred (later known as Alfred the Great), Asser the Monk, and the ealdormen of Wessex, including Odda, who are royal officials and regional leaders in Wessex who supported Alfred in war. Other figures such as Ealhswith, Alfred's wife, and Edward, the son of Alfred, were also historical figures.<ref>For more on the key historical characters from this period, see: Savage, Anne (1988).<i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1842120034/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1842120034&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=b5fbdbcca650380456541d76d5bb74d3 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles]</i> Papermac.</ref>
While the main character Uhtred is not historical, he is based on Uhtred the Bold who lived after the events in the series in the 10th and 11th centuries. As the name suggests, Uhtred was known to have been a brave warrior. In the series, there is a feud between him and his uncle, who usurped the castle and territory of Bebbenburg (Bamburgh). After his adoptive Danish father is treacherously killed, Uhtred was forced to look to Alfred for assistance. This reflects some of the blood feud stories that did occur during and after the life of Uhtred, even though the events in the series did not outright occur. In effect, later stories were mixed with the period of the Anglo-Saxon wars with the Danes.<ref>For more on Uhtred the Bold, see: James, J. (2013). <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0752488724/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0752488724&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=eeafc903047915c1388e06edcb583ddb An onslaught of spears: the Danish conquest of England]</i>.</ref>
===Summary===Like many historical series and movies, there are a lot of untrue events and stories incorporated into the historical period depicted. However, the <i>Last Kingdom</i> does a very good job at incorporating many cultural elements that would have been contemporary at the time, including those involving the behavior of the characters and types of equipment they had during campaigns. Unlike many earlier historical dramas, this one looks more closely at the historical background of the characters, trying to imbue them in a cultural and historical context that would have been familiar to them but still entertaining to 21st century viewers. The series informs us
on how England arose as a nation, where its origin emerges at a time when Anglo-Saxon England was threatened at its last English throne and was close to being taken by the Danes. The use of a lot of historical facts mixed with fictional events make the series informative as well as entertaining.
[[Category:British History]] [[Category:English History]] [[Category:Historically Accurate]] [[Category:Medieval History]]