The Last Kingdom Recap: What You Need to Know Before Seven Kings Must Die
Get up to speed for The Last Kingdom’s Netflix film.
Warning: spoilers for The Last Kingdom seasons 1-5 and the Saxon Stories .
It’s been over a year since The Last Kingdom TV series ended, and this multi-location show with its many Aethelflaeds, Aethelreds, Aethelhelms, Aethelstans, Aelswiths and Aelfwynns (honestly just the tip of the ‘ae’ iceberg) has never been the easiest to keep straight. If you’d benefit from a reminder of where things were left and who everybody is in new feature length Netflix film Seven Kings Must Die then, you’re more than excused.
First of all, it’s important to know that the TV show ended roughly in line with events at the end of The Flame Bearer, Book 10 in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories saga. That’s when Uhtred Ragnarsson took possession of his ancestral fortress of Bebbanburg, after winning it back from his treacherous cousin Whitgar. Three further novels exist (War of the Wolf, Sword of Kings, and War Lord) to conclude Uhtred’s story, which means a lot of book action was skipped in the time jump between the season five finale and Seven Kings Must Die.
How Much Time Has Passed Since Season 5?
The Last Kingdom timeline is a bit of a nonsense, because if we count up all of Uhtred’s exploits and cross reference them with the show’s historical touchpoints, the character would be pushing 70 by the time of the film. Actor Alexander Dreymon is only 40 years old and greying wig aside, they haven’t tried to age him up for the Netflix movie, which everybody can agree is for the best.
Assuming that season five took place in the late AD nine-tens (Lady Aethelflaed’s death happened in AD918), then there’s around a six year time jump between it and the film, which starts with the death of King Edward in AD924 and ends with the battle of Brunanburh in AD937. Technically, that means the film spans a time period of 13 years, but it feels like nothing of the sort so really we’re best off ignoring the timeline altogether and just enjoying the action.
Where Are Eadith, Stiorra, Aelswith and Aelfwynn?
During that time jump between the TV show and the film, several long-standing characters either died off-screen or moved away without explanation. In the season five finale, Eadith, Aelswith and Stiorra were all planning to stay in Bebbanburg, but by the time of the film, they’re nowhere to be seen, and neither is Lady Aethelflaed’s daughter Aelfwynn.
Presumably Abbess Hild returned to the holy island of Lindisfarne after delivering Uhtred’s son Osbert back to him, and Queen Aelswith finally died after surviving on the TV show much longer than her real-world counterpart. Eadith was a travelling healer, so let’s say she went back to Francia (though in book 11, War of the Wolf, Uhtred and Eadith marry but she dies of plague in the next instalment).
Also, obviously don’t expect to see Brida, Lady Aethelflaed, ‘Baby Monk’ Osferth, Stiorra’s husband Sigtryggr, Danish warrior Haesten or the scheming Lord Aethelhelm, because they all died in season five.
Bebbanburg, and Uhtred’s Deal With Scottish King Constantin
At the end of season five, Uhtred finally reclaimed his ancestral fortress of Bebbanburg after it had been usurped first by his uncle Aelfric and then by his cousin Whitgar. His lands however, remained contested territory between Wessex King Edward and King Constantin of Scotland, both of whom wanted to claim Northumbria as their own. Uhtred’s cousin Whitgar had sworn Bebbanburg to King Constantin, who fought to keep his Scottish claim on the fortress.
Uhtred made a deal with King Constantin that he would not swear Bebbanburg to King Edward and in exchange, Constantin would give up his claim on the lands. Aiming to end division and establish a safe Saxon land where Danes could thrive, Uhtred declared “We will remain between the two, sworn to neither, to ensure peace.” Edward was obviously frustrated by this deal, because it stopped him from fulfilling his father Alfred’s dream of uniting the kingdoms to create England.
At the start of Seven Kings Must Die, Uhtred has been living in Bebbanburg for several years, feasting and hunting and enjoying the relative peace. His men Finan and Sihtric are with him, as is his youngest son Osbert.
Uhtred’s Son Osbert
Uhtred had three children with his second wife Gisela, who died giving birth to their youngest son Osbert early on in season three. When Uhtred’s children Young Uhtred and Stiorra were re-introduced in season four, their younger brother was nowhere to be seen and went unmentioned. Uhtred struggled with his eldest son’s pious Christianity and lack of interest in warfare, and was much closer in temperament to his warrior daughter Stiorra, who worshipped the Norse gods and chose to marry the Danish warrior Sigtryggr.
It wasn’t until the end of season five that the Osbert mystery was solved. Uhtred’s youngest had been raised by Uhtred’s longtime friend the Abbess Hild on the holy island of Lindisfarne. He had no knowledge of who his father was and only met him once Bebbanburg had been restored to him. By the time of Seven Kings Must Die, Osbert has been living with his father at the fortress and training to become a warrior, while his older brother Uhtred has moved to Rome to become a Christian scholar.
Osbert was played by actor Olly Rhodes in season five and is played by 25-year-old Jacob Dudman in Seven Kings Must Die.
Edward’s Sons Aethelstan, Aelfweard and Edmund
The real King Edward the Elder had five sons, but the important ones in Seven Kings Must Die are half-brothers Aethelstan, Aelfweard and Edmund. In the TV show, Aethelstan was born along with a twin sister from Edward’s secret first marriage to a commoner.
Edward’s mother Aelswith conspired with the treacherous Lord Aethelhelm to call the marriage illegitimate and sent the children and their mother away from Winchester. Edward then married the wealthy Lord Aethelhelm’s daughter Aelflaed and had a second son Aelfweard. After Aelflaed’s death, Edward remarried Eadgifu and had sons Edmund and Eadred.
When Edward died, the legitimacy of his eldest son’s claim to the throne was questioned by some and the crown was contested between half-brothers Aethelstan and Aelfweard. Eadgifu’s child Edmund’s life was also in danger after Edward passed away because, in Uhtred’s words, “no-one likes the third son of a dead king.”
Uhtred and Aethelstan
Queen Aelswith later regretted her actions in separating Edward from his first wife and sought out the child Aethelstan to repent. Aethelstan had been raised in a convent and was then put under Uhtred’s protection. Uhtred swore an oath of loyalty to the future king and trained the boy in fighting and leadership. Aethelstan was distanced from his father Edward and looked up to Uhtred as a parental figure.
In season five, Edward’s marriage to Queen Aelflaed suffered as her piety, and his disinterest, grew. When Eadgifu of Kent came to Winchester to petition Edward for a ruling on her father’s lands, he made her his mistress. After Queen Aelflaed was murdered on the road to a site of pilgrimage, Edward married Eadgifu and had several children including sons Edmund and Eadred.
After Edward’s death in Seven Kings Must Die, the widow Eadgifu seeks protection for herself and her son Edmund from Uhtred in Bebbanburg.
Uhtred has had the same sword since he was a young man. Serpent’s Breath has an amber stone embedded in its pommel, which is an heirloom from Uhtred’s Saxon family at Bebbanburg. He wore it first as a pendant and then as part of his sword when he became a warrior.
Who Are the Seven Kings?
While the prophecy that “seven kings must die, and the woman you love” is said by a witch in Bernard Cornwell’s books, in the film it’s spoken by Finan’s wife Ingrith following a prophetic dream. Exactly who the seven kings might be is up for debate, but five ‘kings’ are recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as having fought against Aethelstan in the Battle of Brunanburh, along with seven Danish Jarls. Though King Edward may be counted among the prophesied dead, Uhtred at first declares in the Netflix film that as he is no king and has no woman, the words are meaningless.
The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die is out now on Netflix.