The Last Kingdom Movie Ending Explained: Seven Kings Must Die’s Last Scene
What happened to Bebbanburg, did Uhtred survive, and who dines in the great hall at Valhalla?
Warning: contains major spoilers for the Seven Kings Must Die ending.
That battle was the crowning moment of Seven Kings Must Die, twenty-plus minutes of visceral squelch and blood flying on a scale that The Last Kingdom hasn’t seen before.
But after the fighting was over, when the dead had been counted and the wounded carried away to their fates, the film ended with a quiet scene that concluded a thread woven throughout this story from the start. Alfred’s dream was finally achieved – England was formed – not by him, nor by Edward, but by King Aethelstan and Uhtred Ragnarsson, who was left hanging in the balance between life and death.
Does Uhtred Die at the End of the Film?
As the narrator of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories, Uhtred obviously survives into old age in the books in order to tell his tale. The film Seven Kings Must Die, however, is narrated by Uhtred’s man Finan, allowing the possibility that the screen Uhtred could have fallen in battle.
First, we were led to believe that he had, and saw Uhtred’s men discover his unconscious body on the Brunanburh battlefield. That was just a tease. After a period of convalescence at Bebbanburg, Uhtred left his bed to the surprise of those praying for his recovery. He asked after the safety of his son Osbert, and satisfied, fulfilled a promise to King Aethelstan. Recognising him as a worthy leader of a united England, Uhtred finally swore his Northumbrian lands to the Saxon king, thereby providing the final piece of the puzzle needed to form England.
Uhtred swore his lands to Aethelstan on the condition that the newly styled King of England never marry or produce an heir, in order to ensure a peaceful succession of power to his half-brother Edmund after his death. Aethelstan agreed, and went on to reign for 15 years before Edmund took the English throne.
In debt to Uhtred for putting down the Scottish-Danish rebellion at Brunanburh, Aethelstan assured him that his deeds would be recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, but Uhtred refused. He didn’t care about recording his valor for posterity and only sought his ultimate destiny – the Norse afterlife in Valhalla.
That’s when Uhtred hears the sound of cheering and carousing, and has a vision of Odin’s Great Hall. The last time we see our hero, he’s standing between two worlds – life and afterlife, looking from his son Osbert in the land of the living, to his old comrades celebrating their victories in the land of the dead. We don’t see him walk towards Valhalla, but we do see his hand clutching under his cloak, perhaps holding the pommel of his sword – thereby fulfilling the Norse belief that a warrior must die with his sword in his hand to enter Odin’s Great Hall.
“The chronicles do not record if my Lord Uhtred survived,” says Finan, “but those like me who knew him recognised him as the greatest warrior of our age, and the man who made a kingdom.”
As Finan tells us, King Aethelstan ruled for fifteen years and was “considered to be the first and greatest King of medieval England”. The Danes continued to invade England until its eventual conquest by their Norman descendants in 1066.
Who Was in the Great Hall in Uhtred’s Vision of Valhalla?
Inside the Great Hall, drinking and laughing, Uhtred sees Brida – his childhood companion turned lover turned enemy, who was killed by his daughter Stiorra in season five. With her are Danish warriors Clapa (who died in season two and was played by Magnus Samuelsson) and Haesten (who died in season five, played by Jeppa Beck Laursen). Most touchingly of all, they’re all joined by Earl Ragnar, Uhtred and Brida’s adoptive father, who was burned to death by the villainous Kjartan in season one.
Who Were the Titular Seven Kings?
Ingrith’s prophecy is brought back up in the film’s final moments, when that very question is asked. Five kings from the Scottish-Danish alliance escaped the battlefield, but their sons and heirs who fought alongside them were all killed (including Anlaf’s daughter Astrid) so their bloodline would not survive. Add King Edward’s death at the beginning of the film, and Uhtred’s possible death (though not styled as a king, there’s no doubt that he’s as much one as any of the Scottish chieftains or Danish Jarls in this story), and that makes seven.
Who Won the Battle of Brunanburh?
Thanks to Uhtred’s military nous (in the screen version at least), the Danish-Scottish alliance lost the battle, and King Aethelstan’s troops won, ensuring his reign over a united England. Uhtred had armed the front line of his troops with spikes to throw on the ground and injure their oncoming attackers, and roped logs to unseat them from their horses. He lured their opponents into position until they were surrounded by secondary troops led by Uhtred’s son Osbert who’d been hiding in nearby trees until they received the signal to fight.
While it looked as though Father Pyrlig and Uhtred had both fallen in battle, they both survived and were brought back to Bebbanburg to recover. Ingilmundr, the traitorous former lover and advisor of King Aethelstan, fared worse and was executed on Aethelstan’s orders.
Was King Aethelstan Gay in Real Life?
We don’t know. Speaking to writer Sharon Kay Penman in this interview about War Lord, the final book in the Saxon Stories series, Bernard Cornwell explained that he’d used poetic license when it came to Aethelstan’s sexuality:
“I also took some liberties with Æthelstan, Alfred’s grandson, who eventually becomes the first king of a united England. History records that he never married, which is unusual in a king because of the desire to leave an heir, and also that he liked to decorate his hair with golden ringlets, and on that small evidence I decided he might have been gay; a choice that hasn’t pleased all my readers, but I was happy with it.”
What Happened to Bebbanburg?
As we saw in the film’s final minutes, which travelled centuries forward into the present time, it’s still standing today and goes by the name of Bamburgh Castle, where it can be visited as a Northumberland tourist attraction.
The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die is out now on Netflix.