Warning: contains The Last Kingdom spoilers.
It must be all the fresh air and healthy exercise. Or the frequent baptisms in barrels of freezing water. Perhaps it helps to keep one’s sword glistening wet with the blood of one’s enemies?
However he’s doing it, ninth-century warrior Uhtred son of Uhtred (played by 37-year-old Alexander Dreymon) is ageing miraculously well. Socialites and Hollywood stars, get thee on the Uhtred regime!
Tally it all up and the character is currently in his fifties, yet in the most recent season of The Last Kingdom, Uhtred’s every bit the warrior and bum-baring lover he’s ever been.
To pin The Last Kingdom to its historical backdrop, using some back-of-an-envelope calculations, here’s when each season is roughly set. Note that the book timelines differ slightly to those of the show (and every so often, contradict themselves).
Season One: 866 – 878
Season one began in 866 when Uhtred (then Osbert) was around 12 years old. Danish invader Jarl Ragnar killed Osbert’s older brother, so the boy was rechristened Uhtred. Ragnar then defeated Uhtred’s father in battle at Eoforwic/York, took Uhtred hostage, then paid the boy’s ransom himself and adopted him as a son.
In 872, around the age of 18, Uhtred was falsely accused of Jarl Ragnar’s murder so fled Daneland and travelled to Wessex, where he met the recently crowned King Alfred. Uhtred married and had a son. Six years later in 878, Uhtred was around 24 when he helped Odda the Elder and the Saxons to victory against the Danes at the Battle of Cynwit.
After the battle, Uhtred and his lover Iseult helped King Alfred’s infant son Edward (born in 874) to recover from illness while the royal family hid in the Athelney marshes. Uhtred’s own son died and Uhtred’s estranged wife entered a nunnery. Still in 878, Uhtred helped Alfred to victory at the battle of Ethandun/Edington, where Iseult was killed.
Season Two: 878 – 886
Around the age of 24, Uhtred rescued Dane Guthred from slavery and fell in love with Guthred’s sister Gisela. Guthred however, made an alliance with Uhtred’s uncle and sold him to a slave ship (where he met Finan). Captive for around a year, Uhtred was rescued by his adoptive Danish brother Ragnar the spring after he was taken. A year later in 880, Uhtred and Ragnar stormed the fortress of Dunholm, killing Kjartan and Sven One-Eyed and rescuing Ragnar’s sister Thyra.
Uhtred and Gisela then spent three years in their Wessex estate of Cookham, and had two children, Uhtred and Stiorra, taking us to around 883. The Last Kingdom now loses a few years in the timeline here and moves to 886. That’s when Aethelflaed’s marriage to Aethelred of Mercia is thought to have taken place, when Aethelflaed was around the age of 16.
886 is also the year the Battle of Beamfleot took place on the show, when Uhtred rescued Aethelflaed from Danish capture by Sigefrid and Erik. By the end of season two, Uhtred was around 32 years old.
Season Three: 893 – 900
King Alfred is told by the Danish seer Skade that he will not live to see another summer, a prophecy that if fulfilled, would date the season three opener to 898, the year before Alfred’s death around the age of 50. That would put Uhtred around 44 years old.
However, the Battle of Beamfleot, at which Edward led his men to Uhtred’s aid and won his father’s respect in season three, is dated five years or so earlier, around 893. Edward’s second marriage to Aelflaed, which takes place in season three, is historically dated around 900, when Edward was around the age of 25.
Either way, Alfred’s death towards the end of season three puts us at 899, and Aethelwold’s death at the Battle of the Holme would take us to around 902, when Uhtred would be in his mid-forties. It’s likely the show shrunk this timeline a little though, and brought Aethelwold’s death forward.
Season Four: 905?
The decisive military event of season four – the battle of Tettenhall in which the combined forces of Wales, Mercia and Wessex defeated the Danes – took place historically in 910. That’s almost a decade after the end of season three, which would bring Uhtred to his mid-fifties.
However, that doesn’t quite work for the show because of the ages of the children. If Aethelflaed’s daughter Aelfwynn had been born around 887 following the events at Beamfleot in season two, she would be in her early twenties in 910 and not still a child. Stiorra, born around 882, would be in her late twenties by season four, and Edward’s firstborn son Aethelstan, born around 894, would also be much older than the child we see.
All of which means that season four of the show likely takes place in the early-to-middle 900s, around five years after the conclusion of season three. That makes Uhtred only around 50 years old in season four. A whippersnapper!
How long will it continue?
The author of the Saxon Stories (the novel series on which The Last Kingdom is based) told History Extra that he has plans to conclude the saga in 937 at the Battle of Brunanburh, the historical battle that marked the beginning of England.
Using the timeline here, that would bring Uhtred to the ripe old age of 83, by which point he’ll still look like a dashing thirty-something no doubt.
It’s all that fresh air and exercise, you can’t beat it.