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Every Character Based On Real Life Figures


Every Character Based On Real Life Figures


Summary

  • The Last Kingdom introduces real historical figures through engaging fictional characters, sparking interest in English history.
  • Despite some inaccuracies, the show sheds light on key figures like Alfred the Great and Aethelstan, showcasing their impact.
  • By examining characters based on real figures like Aethelflaed and Edward the Elder, viewers gain insight into Anglo-Saxon history.



The Last Kingdom is full of engaging and memorable characters, many of whom are based on real historical figures. The Last Kingdom is based on Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories novel series, which follows the unification of England as a single kingdom through the eyes of its fictional protagonist, Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon). By the end of Seven Kings Must Die, the show’s sequel film, a vast number of historical figures are introduced as characters.

While The Last Kingdom‘s talented cast portrays a number of interesting historical figures, they are not always depicted accurately. Cornwell’s novel series provides passages containing general historical information about the events dramatized therein, but the show’s story and historical figures are never properly explained. With that in mind, it’s worth taking the time to examine the characters in The Last Kingdom who are based on real figures and consider the ways they are different from their historical counterparts.


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17 Alfred The Great, King Of The Anglo-Saxons (849-899 CE)

Played by David Dawson

David Dawson’s King Alfred is one of the show’s most important characters and is responsible for many of the most critical historical events depicted in the Last Kingdom era. King Alfred the Great is remembered for the sweeping military and administrative reforms he brought to Wessex, his success in repelling Viking invasions, and his expansion of the territory controlled by Wessex. Despite his importance in the real history of the era, he only appeared in the show’s first three seasons.


The real-life Alfred the Great was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf and his first wife Osburh, both of whom died when he was a young boy. He was the fourth of his brothers to reign, following Æthelbald, Æthelberht, and Æthelred. Alfred was coronated as the King of West Saxons in 871. He reigned under that title until taking the mantle of King of the Anglo-Saxons in 886, a title he held until his death in 899.

16 Aethelflaed, Lady Of The Mercians (870-918 CE)

Played by Millie Brady


Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, played by Millie Brady in The Last Kingdom, was the eldest daughter of King Alfred the Great. She is known for being one of the few women to hold power in her own right in medieval England. As depicted in The Last Kingdom, Aethelflaed was married to Lord Aethelred of Mercia, and after Aethelred’s death in 911, she became Lady of the Mercians. She first appeared in The Last Kingdom season 2, and she remained in the cast until the final season.

Aethelflaed expanded Mercia’s defensive infrastructure and strengthened its alliance with Wessex, which was ruled by her younger brother, Edward the Elder. She was born during the height of the Vikings of England, and by the time she was eight, it was mostly under Danish Viking rule. She played a major role in fighting off renewed Viking attacks in the 890s and, as a rare female ruler, built a series of settlements that worked together, proving her mettle as a leader.

15 Edward The Elder, King Of The Anglo-Saxons (874-924 CE)

Played by Timothy Innes


King Edward the Elder, depicted by Timothy Innes in The Last Kingdom, was the son of King Alfred the Great, immediately succeeding Alfred following his death in 899. He showed up in the third season of the show and lasted until the final season. When Edward succeeded to the throne, he had to defeat a challenge from his cousin Æthelwold, who also had claim to the throne. While his son, Aethelstan, is credited with founding the first Kingdom of England, Edward’s contributions to the achievement were essential.

By the time of Edward’s death in 924, East Anglia and Mercia were firmly under the yoke of Wessex, leaving Northumbria as the only Anglo-Saxon kingdom under Nordic control. Edward isn’t always The Last Kingdom‘s most likable character, but he was undoubtedly one of the most impactful kings in Anglo-Saxon history. Scholars admit that he wasn’t as smart as his father, but he was much more glorious in his power when he ruled his country.


14 Lady Aelswith (c. 852-902 CE)

Played by Eliza Butterworth

An image of Aelswith looking concerned in The Last Kingdom

Eliza Butterworth plays The Last Kingdom‘s Lady Aelswith, the wife of King Alfred and mother to Edward and Aethelflaed. She was a recurring character in the first season and then became a main cast member in season 2, remaining on the show until the end. The historical Lady Aelswith is commonly considered one of the most influential noblewomen in medieval English history.

She was born to a powerful Mercian noble, Aethelred Mucel, and her marriage to Alfred was one of the earliest and most critical ties between Mercia and Wessex. She is thought to have had a notable influence on her husband and is remembered for her steadfast support of Christianity in England. She helped donate much to her own nunnery during her lifetime, and they were where many royal and noble women retired when their husbands died and where kings sent their wives to remain out of political affairs.


13 Æthelstan, King Of The English (894-939 CE)

Played by Harry Gilby

Harry Gilby’s Æthelstan is probably the most revered historical figure depicted in The Last Kingdom. He is remembered for being the first king to unite all four of the English kingdoms under one banner, earning the title of King of the English. He is often celebrated for expanding the military, educational, and religious reforms begun by his grandfather, Alfred. While he holds great importance in history, he never appeared until the series’ final season.


Though The Last Kingdom takes some creative liberties in depicting Aethelstan, the sequel film Seven Kings Must Die succeeds in portraying the most crucial moment in his life: the Battle of Brunanburh, which brought all of England under his control. In real-life history, Æthelstan’s centralized government brought leading figures from other areas into his councils and met with rulers outside his territory. He was the ruler who finally created a stable country and government.

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12 Aelfwynn, Second Lady Of The Mercians (c. 888 CE -Unknown)

Played by Phia Saban

Aelfwynn with a knife to her throat in The Last Kingdom season 5.


Aelfwynn, played by Phia Saban in The Last Kingdom, was the daughter of Aethelflaed and Aethelred, and she ruled Mercia for a few short monthsafter her mother died in 918. For that brief period, Aelfwynn was known as the Second Lady of the Mercians, but she was spirited away to Wessex later that year when her uncle, Edward the Elder, seized direct control of Mercia for himself. She never appeared in The Last Kingdom until the final season of the television series.

Though The Last Kingdom depicts Aelfwynn as the daughter of Aethelflaed and her Viking lover, Erik, no historical evidence suggests she was anything other than the true-born daughter of Aethelflaed and Aethelred. While her removal of power was swift, there are no records of Aelfwynn after this time, and many assume she likely entered into holy orders. Either she moved into seclusion while her uncle took over the rule, or she married and disappeared into a quiet home life away from politics.


11 Aethelwold The Aethling (c. 869-902 CE)

Played by Harry McEntire

An image of Aethelwold with an injured eye in The Last Kingdom

Harry McEntire’s Aethelwold is one of The Last Kingdom‘s most deplorable characters, but the historical figure he is based on lived a notably different life. First and foremost, The Last Kingdom depicts Aethelwold as a grown man at the time of his father, King Aethelred’s, death in 871. However, the real Aethelwold was an infant at the time, making it impossible for him to challenge his uncle Alfred’s ascension to the throne of Wessex as he does in the show.


Two decades later, Aethelwold did challenge Edward’s claim, mounting an impressive rebellion that might have succeeded if not for Aethelwold’s death in battle in 902. This happened after Alfred the Great died and, as a senior ætheling, he had a legitimate claim to the throne. However, he couldn’t raise enough support, and while the Danes won the Battle of the Holme, Æthelwold died, and that ended the rebellion. In The Last Kingdom, the character lasted for three seasons.

10 Aethelred, Lord Of The Mercians (Unknown-911 CE)

Played by Toby Regbo

An image of Aethelred looking serious in The Last Kingdom

Aethelred, Lord of the Mercians, played by Toby Regbo in The Last Kingdom, is another detestable character from the show whose historical background tells a slightly different story than The Last Kingdom. Little is known of Aethelred’s heritage or early life, but more extensive records of his life become available after his accession to the Mercian throne around 881. Aethelred is remembered for accepting King Alfred’s overlordship and marrying his daughter, Aethelflaed, to solidify their pact.


He became chronically ill in the early 10th century, and it’s commonly suggested that his wife ran Mercia for nearly a decade before his death in 911. In The Last Kingdom, Aethelred was around for the second, third, and fourth seasons before his death ended his time on the series. His daughter, Ælfwynn, ruled briefly until deposed by her uncle, King Edward, which was when the new King began to solidify the English country.

9 Guthrum, King Of East Anglia (c. 835-889 CE)

Played by Thomas W. Gabrielsson

Father Beocca baptizes Guthrum in The Last Kingdom season 1.


Thomas W. Gabrielsson’s Guthrum is one of the earliest antagonists in The Last Kingdom, and his portrayal in the show is one of the more accurate depictions of a historical figure. The real Guthrum was born in Denmark, and after failing to oust his uncle as King of Denmark, he joined forces with the Great Heathen Army in attacking the Anglo-Saxon lands in England. This was the Battle of Chippenham, but it ended with Alfred leading his forces to victory over Guthrum.

After his crushing defeat at the Battle of Edington in 878, Guthrum made a peace pact with Alfred that granted him control of East Anglia if he should agree to be baptized. He remained King of East Anglia until his death around 835 CE. His only appearance in The Last Kingdom came in the show’s first season. Unlike many warriors of the time, he lived because he accepted peace and the forced conversion to Christianity with the Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum.

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8 Guthred Hardacnutsson, King Of Northumbria (c. 844-895 CE)

Played by Thure Lindhardt

King Guthred in The Last Kingdom.

The Last Kingdom‘s Guthred, King of Northumbria, depicted by Thure Lindhardt, is based on Guthred Hardacnutsson, who was King of Northumbria from around 883 until his death in 895. It’s also possible that he had both Danish and Anglo-Saxon blood, as is suggested in the show. Further, the supposed prophecy spoken by Saint Cuthbert to abbot Eadred, which is included in The Last Kingdom season 2, did indeed suggest that Guthred, son of Hardacnut, should be made King of Northumbria.


As The Last Kingdom suggests, it seems likely that this prophecy was invented to lend Guthred divine legitimacy in his claim to power. In real life, he was an enslaved person who became the king, showing his determination and drive. When it comes to his appearance in The Last Kingdom, Guthred Hardacnutsson only appeared in the second season of the show.

7 Jarl Hastein (Unknown- c. 896)

Played by Jeppe Beck Laursen

Haesten frowning at someone in The Last Kingdom.

The Last Kingdom‘s Haesten, played by Jeppe Beck Laursen, is based on the infamous Viking Jarl and raider Hastein. Little is known about Hastein’s upbringing or his death, but the active period of his life was spent raiding across continental Europe and in England. He became one of the most successful Vikings of the 9th century, and was an elderly man by the time he disappeared from historical records around 896.


Previously, he led a sizable army across England, raiding extensively before finally being cornered by Alfred and Aethelred, at which time his army disbanded, scattering across Britain. In The Last Kingdom, Hastein was part of the cast of characters from the second season until the finale. It says a lot that a Viking warrior would not only survive and live into old age but also disappear as a notorious Viking and live out his elder years in peace rather than death.

6 Constantine II, King Of Alba (c. 879-952 CE)

Played by Rod Hallet

King Constantin of Scotland talking to Uhtred in The Last Kingdom


Rod Hallet depicts King Constantine II of Alba in The Last Kingdom. Constantine’s involvement in the series follows historical events fairly closely, though his involvement in the story is mostly limited to his interactions with the English kingdoms to the south. Constantine II was the King of Alba from 900 until he abdicated the throne in 943, marking one of the longest reigns in Scottish history at 43 years in control. Only King William the Lion ruled for a longer period of time.

He often allied with the English kingdoms to repel Viking invasions. However, after King Aethelstan ravaged southern Alba unprovoked around 934, he joined several other kings (Olaf Guthfrithson, King of Dublin, and Owain ap Dyfnwal, King of Strathclyde) in opposing Aethelstan at the fateful Battle of Brunanburh in 937, but they lost that battle. He abdicated his throne to his predecessor’s son, Malcolm I. His only appearance in The Last Kingdom was in the show’s final season.

5 Ubba (Unknown-878 CE)

Played by Rune Temte

Ubba looking menacingly at someone offscreen in The Last Kingdom.


Rune Temte’s Ubba in The Last Kingdom is based on the historical Viking leader of the same name, who is closely tied to the Great Heathen Army led by Ivar the Boneless. Though it’s often suggested that Ubba was a son of the semi-mythical Viking, Ragnar Lodbrok, these claims are somewhat dubious. Ubba is absent from the oldest and most reliable sources of information on Lodbrok, which suggests that their familial ties may have been invented years after the fact.

Even so, Ubba was a fierce warrior and one of the most feared Vikings in English history. Ubba only appeared in the first season of The Last Kingdom, and while much of the lore in the real-life figure’s life might be made up, his role on the show has him as one of Ragnar’s sons and a leader of the Great Heathen Army. It seems that, in this case, the character is based on a real-life figure from history, but his story in the TV series was exaggerated from what might be real history.


4 Odda, Ealdorman Of Devon (Unknown Date Of Birth And Death)

Played by Simon Kunz

Odda frowning at someone in The Last Kingdom.

Odda, Ealdorman of Devon, is portrayed by Simon Kunz in The Last Kingdom. Though little of the historical figure’s early life or eventual death is known, his actions as a loyal bannerman to King Alfred the Great are well-documented. Odda is often remembered for the victory he won over Ubba in 878 at the Battle of Cynwit. This battle is dramatized in The Last Kingdom season 1 when Uhtred enters Ubba’s camp, burning his fleet and slaying Ubba in single combat.


Odda probably died within a few years of his victory at Cynwit, but the exact date of his death is unknown. In The Last Kingdom, Odda was in the first and second seasons of the show. In real life, he played a large part in a war with the sons of Ragnar, characters many fans know from the rival series Vikings. Odda led his West Saxon Forces to defeat a Viking army led by Ubba, who was the brother of Ivar the Boneless and Halfdan Ragnarsson. Odda was succeeded as Ealdorman of Devon by Edred.

3 Sitric Cáech, King Of Dublin & King Of Northumbria (Unknown-927 CE)

Played by Eysteinn Sigurðarson

sigtryggr looking smug in The Last Kingdom.

Eysteinn Sigurðarson’s Sigtryggr in The Last Kingdom is based on Sitric Cáech, a Viking leader who was King of Dublin from 917-920 and King of Northumbria from 921-927. Though Sigtryggr is based on Sitric, little of his story in The Last Kingdom reflects real historical events. Sitric was the King of Dublin for several years, but after losing power in Ireland, he set himself up as King of Northumbria until his death in 927.


The Last Kingdom‘s Sigtryggr does come from Ireland to Northumbria, but he is not given the crowns that the historical figure wore in life. He appeared in the fourth and fifth seasons of The Last Kingdom series. He is also the grandson of Ivar the Boneless, so he has plenty of history in his blood. Sitric also converted to Christianity after his defeat but soon reverted to paganism. His son Gofraid went on to serve as king of Dublin, Harald as king of Limerick, and Amlaib as king of Northumbria.

2 Aethelhelm, Ealdorman Of Wiltshire (Unknown-897 CE)

Played by Adrian Schiller

An image of Aethelhelm advising the king in The Last Kingdom


Aethelhelm, portrayed in The Last Kingdom by Adrian Schiller, was an Ealdorman of Wiltshire who was likely the father of Edward the Elder’s second wife, Aelfflaed. Very little is known of the historical figure, and though it cannot be ascertained with true certainty that he was the father of Edward’s second wife, he is widely believed to be the most likely candidate.

It’s unlikely that the real Aethelhelm held the same level of authority and influence as the character in the show does, but again, little is known for certain about Aethelhelm’s life. In The Last Kingdom, Aethelhelm, Ealdorman Of Wiltshire, was in the show’s third, fourth, and fifth seasons. He was considered the wealthiest man in Wessex, and his schemes involved wanting to put his future grandchildren on the throne of England, making him the main villain of season 5.

1 Aelfflaed, Lady Of Wessex (899 CE-919 CE)

Played by Amelia Clarkson

Queen Aelflaed walking with Edward in The Last Kingdom


Amelia Clarkson’s Aelflaed in The Last Kingdom is based on Edward the Elder’s second wife, Aelfflaed. As in The Last Kingdom, Aelfflaed was eventually put aside, so the King could marry Eadgifu, but the reasons for this are unknown. She is believed to have joined a monastery after Edward put her aside. Aelfflaed had several children with Edward, but for reasons unknown, she was never consecrated as Queen.

In The Last Kingdom, Aelfflaed appeared in the third season as a recurring character before moving into a series regular role in the fourth and fifth seasons. She was the queen consort of Wessex before she was put aside. It is said that Aelfflaed chose to adopt a religious life after the king moved on to his new wife, but she chose not to live in a monastic house and kept the possessions of her estates. She ended up dying in 919 CE and was buried at Wilton Abbey with her two daughters.


Other Minor Characters Based On Historical Figures

A handful of The Last Kingdom‘s other characters are based on historical figures, but they either play too minor of a role in the story or have too little in the way of historical records to warrant further discussion. A roundup of these characters and the actor who portrays them can be found below.

  • Abbot Eadred (David Schofield)
  • King Hywel Of Wales (Steffan Rhodri)
  • Osferth (Ewan Mitchell)
  • Rognvaldr (Micki Stoltt)
  • Sigurd Bloodhair (Ola Rapace)

The Last Kingdom

Release Date
October 5, 2015

Cast
Alexander Dreymon , Emily Cox , Ian Hart , Eliza Butterworth , Eva Birthistle , Mark Rowley , Cavan Clerkin , Tobias Santelmann , David Dawson

Showrunner
Stephen Butchard

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