Sometimes history hides heroes deep in the art and leaves a battlefield without a name. The Last Kingdom is about one of those men.
Where It Came From
The Last Kingdom is a gothic, historical story. But where to begin? History is an infinite source of ideas for authors.
It is becoming a series that has people glued to their small screens. Netflix didn’t waste time and jumped on Bernard Cornwell‘s work of The Saxon Stories and called it The Last Kingdom.
I wrote this article three years ago and thought about publishing it again to catch up before the movie’s release. The movie concludes the epic and gothic series based on the last three books by Bernard Cornwell. The last book, War Lord, is a homage to Uhtred from the series and to Alexander Dreymon‘s portrayal of Uhtred.
The Summary of The Saxon Stories
The Saxon Stories is a historical novel series written by Bernard Cornwell about the history of Anglo-Saxon England in the ninth and tenth centuries.
The protagonist of the series is Uhtred of Bebbanburg, born to an Anglo-Saxon lord in Northumbria but captured and adopted by the Danes. — Wikipedia
The Last Kingdom
The series’ name is The Last Kingdom, which is the title of the first book in the series. I cannot compare the novels to the show. But I can say I’m waiting for the first one in the mail!
The series follows the books well, according to the summary of The Saxon Stories. Uhtred is the focus of the show, but his life is also the result of external obstacles he continually faces in an unforgiving era.
Uhtred lost everything, twice, and it is heartbreaking to see how life was cruel back then. The 800s and 900s were by far the harshest on people of the north of Europe.
The Vikings spreading, curious and ready to take their place before someone would force them down, left the kingdoms of England wondering if they would live to see another day.
Just remember, before hating either England or the Vikings, that in those days, there was only one rule: eat or be eaten.
Another reason why The Last Kingdom is a gothic, historical story is that it is darker than one could think!
A Gothic Story
The Gothic era of the Dark Ages is the setting of the series, and we see how people lived. The Romanesque vision you have? Throw it out the window! You witness the darkness people carried with them and the ugly face of what it was to live on the island of Britain.
The visual of the series gives the perfect ambiance for what history depicts of the Dark Ages in those landmarks. The often fog and mist usage, gloomy skies, and colder days are ideal for the story.
England, separated into several kingdoms, faces its most considerable fall to the ruthless Danes. The Danes have the advantage of sailing and bringing more men, but they fear losing men’s power. Because of their “godless” ways, no Anglo-Saxon approaches them, but one can help unite all kingdoms under one king, and his name is Uhtred.
In many movies or series, we see a fictional romantic view of the Middle Ages, but the other name of that era is the Dark Ages. There is a reason, and it isn’t just because of a pestilence that hit them.
Human history reached a stagnant point in its evolution in the 800s. The preaching of the Catholic Church spread and took root in England or ‘The kingdoms of Anglia’ at the time. Dwellers go through the conversion despite some resisting the teaching of the Church.
The Last Kingdom shows the conflict between the two visions. The one unites everyone under one God and the other, motivated by nature and many figures. While both people are only trying to survive and conquer, they cannot see eye to eye and refuse to listen to one another.
The historical facts in The Last Kingdom are various. The character of Uhtred is authentic, but because there is a lack of documentation, some liberties are at work. King Alfred The Great was king in Wessex some time before Uhtred but it ties the story so well, and so did quite a few Danes mentioned.
The Last Story
After watching the first season of The Last Kingdom and starting the second one, I can say it pulls you in quite easily. The desire to know more about the way history played out is tangible.
Each character has a story to tell and a part to play. They left nothing to chance. Uhtred wants what he is owed, and he brings you on his journey to find out how to achieve his goal.
Along the way, you learn about the Danes’ way of living and sharing the Anglo-Saxon way. Quite different, but sometimes you wonder which is the actual thief and who’s the genuine face of freedom.
Uhtred earned his place in my heart because I know I would often act and say the same in his shoes. I’d roll my eyes just as often as he does. He is impulsive, but he learns, and his relationship with both the Anglo-Saxon people and Danes is admirable.
When it comes to early mediaeval times, The Last Kingdom, a gothic, historical story of times when Vikings tried to find more land, is a tale to watch and rewatch!
What we learn about the Anglo-Saxons is the Church’s importance in people’s hearts. Religion was especially crucial to Alfred, who became king without a kingly father with a son.
But Alfred was a wise and intelligent man, highly educated, and gave importance to knowledge and writing. Something the true heir didn’t understand at first.
Meanwhile, we also see the ugly face of the Church. Go on, say, “well, of course!” but one must understand that God is not the Church. Faith is not a building or anything material for that matter, and that series shows it well.
By seeing what people went through when forced to receive forgiveness from the king and the Church, Uhtred is who I support.
King Alfred prays often. Monks and brothers, priests and bishops are everywhere and influential. Uhtred, because of his knowledge and warrior skills, scares the Church. However, nothing can shake Alfred’s faith in God and his knowledge. Alfred is wiser than most.
Also, on a side note, do not judge the Anglo-Saxons by their faith, because it is all they knew back then. They passed teachings on from generation to generation with nothing else to confront it for years. Fear of what was outside the Church terrified them, even Uhtred.
The Gothic era is one I love, even though watching The Last Kingdom breaks my heart. I wish people had it easier back then and could enjoy life without fear, but that wouldn’t be as Gothic, would it?
The Danes didn’t disrespect the Church as much as they wanted to understand what made this one god so strong. They desired to know how their faith was so unshakable that they would call upon their God as often as possible.
See, that’s what made the Vikings so strong in that era of history. Their curiosity and will to go a step further had them ask questions and question everything. One character goes as far as calling written scrolls “the Anglo-Saxon magic.” That is because he knew that somehow writing had to be the Anglo-Saxon way to learn.
The Last Kingdom is a kingdom story about the opposite attraction. Not too long before this story takes place, England was pagan itself and now rejecting other pagans, i.e., Danes.
The Gothic Story
Uhtred saw both sides of the coin, living as a Catholic and a Pagan. He knows much about both ways, and to be honest. I don’t know if he believes in anything.
The Gothic story of The Last Kingdom is one magnificent work of history with fictional interaction. Historical characters mixed in with fictional ones bring one story to life, the making of England.
I’m French with Irish and Norwegian DNA, so I won’t lie and say that I felt heartbroken when the Danes humbled England, but I cried a few times. No one deserves to live in fear their entire life or fight to keep their homeland.
My Thoughts On The Last Kingdom
If you are a fan of the ongoing show of Vikings, you will enjoy The Last Kingdom. However, I am not a fan of Vikings, yet The Last Kingdom is becoming one of my favourite series of all time.
The reason for me loving the show is simple: history, Dark Ages, conflict, and war to build a home and an empire. I am curious to know how it all began and how it ended. The Last Kingdom is accurate enough as a historical show, which suffices for me.
On a side note, if you are a fan of Assassin’s Creed for the historical part, it brings to the table, from an A.C. fan to another, to watch it. You won’t regret it!
The Last Kingdom is a gothic, historical story. Until my following review, shield wall! Destiny is all!!!