Now that Seven Kings Must Die – the final feature-length instalment of The Last Kingdom – has aired on Netflix, you might be wondering what will fill the epic battle-filled hole in your TV viewing schedule.
Good news: the answer could be Bad Wolf’s new show The Winter King, which will air on ITVX. This brand-new historical fiction TV series has more than just the Middle Ages setting in common with The Last Kingdom: they’re also both based on a series of Bernard Cornwell novels. This time, however, instead of Saxons vs. Vikings, The Winter King will tell the story of the legend of King Arthur:
Here’s everything you need to know about The Winter King so far…
It’s Based on The Warlord Chronicles Books – And They’re Bernard Cornwell’s Favourites
Whereas The Last Kingdom is based on Cornwell’s ‘The Saxon Stories’ books from the 2000s, The Winter King is based on an earlier series of his novels: a trilogy known as The Warlord Chronicles, which were published in the 1990s.
The three books – The Winter King, Enemy of God and Excalibur – are set in the early Middle Ages and blend historical fiction about Dark Age Britain with well-known Mediaeval Arthurian legends: think King Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot and Guinivere.
Even more promising, Bernard Cornwell himself once said ‘I have to confess that of all the books I have written these three are my favourites.’
There Are Ten Episodes, Focussing on King Arthur
In the words of the show’s production company Bad Wolf, (who are also producing Doctor Who in the second Russell T Davies era), The Winter King is an ‘epic but intimate 10 part returning series which ‘follows Arthur Pendragon as he evolves from outcast son to legendary warrior and leader’. It is set in the 5th century, ‘in a land of warring factions and tribes when the world was brutal and lives were often fleeting’.
The Trailer Is Full of Sex, Sword Fights And Saxons
Blimey, The Winter King looks action-packed indeed. We see a scruffy, estranged Arthur returning to his family, as Merlin tells him his destiny is to bring the country together, and he devises a risky-looking plan to bring the various warring factions together. For what is technically a mission to bring peace, it looks pretty brutal, so we can surmise it doesn’t exactly run smoothly.
Merlin, Guinevere and Lancelot Aren’t What You Might Expect
Merlin is often depicted as a fatherly sage, but in Bernard Cornwell’s stories he’s a mischievous, powerful politician. Likewise, Guinivere is scheming and ambitious, and although we don’t yet know if we’ll meet Lancelot in the first series, we know from the books that he’s not portrayed as the gallant hero many depict him to be, but instead a vain and unpopular man.
The Winter King Cast Includes Iain De Caestecker and Eddie Marsan
ITV announced some of the main cast for the series back in December, and it’s a promising lineup.
Stuart Campbell (SAS: Rogue Heroes) is the show’s narrator Derfel, a left-for-dead orphan who becomes the ultimate warlord, and a disciple of Arthur, who will be played by Ian De Caestecker (Agents of SHIELD) and begins the series in exile.
Eddie Marsan (The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe) is Uther, High King of Dumnonia, and Daniel Ings (The Crown) will portray Owain, one of Arthur’s closest friends and a son figure for Uther.
Valene Kane (Gangs of London) is the outspoken, fearless Morgan, Arthur’s half-sister and daughter of Uther, and a pupil of the powerful Merlin’s, who will be played by Nathaniel Martello-White (Small Axe).
Ellie James (I May Destroy You) is Nimue, a priestess saved by Merlin because she can see the gods, and Simon Merrells (Good Omens) will be the brutal, unforgiving King Gundleus, from the rival kingdom of Siluria.
More recent cast announcements include Grantchester’s Jordan Alexandra as the ambitious Guinevere, Steven Elder (A Spy Among Friends) as the deeply kind Bishop of Dumnonia, Outlander’s Andrew Gower as his fanatical, and more.
Filming Took Place in Wales and the West Country
The Blaise Castle Estate in Bristol was transformed into the Medieval village of Avalon for the show back in summer 2022, including a 10-metre high wooden tower, and the production also built an extensive set on the city’s Patchway Industrial Estate featuring a fortified encampment and mountainous ravine.
In Wiltshire, scenes were shot in the scenic village of Bradford-Upon-Avon and a Wye Valley quarry, and in Somerset the crew also took over the Tropiquaria Wildlife Park and Aquarium (no animals were harmed, etc etc).
The Winter King was also filmed at the Forest of Dean estate in Gloucestershire, where Tolkein took part in archaeological digs which allegedly inspired his Lord of the Rings books. The estate is owned by Lord Rupert Bledisloe, the brother of The Winter Tale’s director, Otto Bathurst (Peaky Blinders).
Filming Wrapped in February 2023
Now that filming has just finished, all we have to wait for is the release date for The Winter King’s debut on ITVX. It’s expected to be later this year – as soon as we hear more, we’ll let you know.