How Historically Accurate is season 3 of The Last Kingdom
The tv series Last Kingdom continues for a third season, this time concentrating in the later years of Alfred the Great's reign. This was a period of renewed conflict with tensions and uncertainty as to how successful the unification process of England would survive future Danish onslaught. The approximate time in which the season takes place is between 892-899.
In 892-94, another large wave of Danish and other Viking invasions took place in Wessex, attacking the rich lands of southern England south of London. Several of the raids involved Danes coming from northern Europe but also Danes from East Anglia and Northumbria came. The Danes may have intended to stay in England if they had succeeded more greatly in their raids. In 892-94, Wessex was far more prepared for renewed Dane raids, as this time they had fortified places called burh(s) throughout much of Wessex. The Danes has setup several key defensive areas, including in the Thames Estuary and in Devon. They were led Hastein, a chieftain who led one of the larger groups. Another group of Danes was intercepted near Farnham, which is a small town today about 30 km west of London. There, the Danes were defeated and much of the treasures stolen during their raids were taken back.
While in the novel Uhtred plays, once again, a key role in defending against the Danish raids, he eventually flees north to Northumbria after his wife had died giving childbirth. The key historical link and plot is the uncertainty of what would happen once Alfred died and how successful Wessex would hold on against Danish/Viking raids, particularly as Aethelwald, Alfred's brother, would likely make a move for the crown after Alfred had died. Although eventually Uhtred comes back to Wessex, after some time being involved in his own Viking raids in continental Europe and living with his Danish brother, Ragnar, he this time finds himself more closely allied to Æthelflæd, who is the wife of the Mercian lord Æthelred.
When Alfred does die in 899, rebellion by Aethelwald starts that sees him combining his forces with invading Danes and Danes from East Anglia. Edward, son of Alfred, had succeed Alfred but some see him as not the legitimate king, as Alfred took the crown from Aethelwald early in his reign because Aethelwald was seen as incompetent and unable to lead against the Danes. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle suggests Aethelward may have been recognised as king in Northumbria at this time. Aethelwald also convinces the Danes that he is the rightful king, although he is unsuccessful in convincing anyone in Wessex of this. The Danes began raiding Wessex which eventually led to an invasion by Wessex against East Anglia, specifically against King Eohric who had sided with Aethelwald. At a great battle, the Battle of Holme, Eohric, Aethelwald, and other prominent Danes die, but Wessex forces retreat from East Anglia.
Key Characters and Significance
In Season 3, Uhtred appears to possibly change his loyalties as he leaves Wessex after his wife dies. This is because he killed a priest who had insulted her after her death. Uhtred is now governor of London and, although Merica, led by Æthelred, technically rule London, it is Wessex that has the real authority. In fact, Mercia is not allowed to have a king but only a lord, keeping Wessex in charge of its affairs. After leaving Wessex for some time, Uhtred comes back and serves Æthelflæd as he cares for her and keeps his oath to her to protect her. He thus continues fighting for Wessex and serving under Edward, the son and successor to Alfred.
Hastein is a key character in the conflicts that begin in the 890s. We do not know if Hastein was the same as another Hastein mentioned in texts who had also raided wide areas in Europe. It is possible they are different people as otherwise it would seem Hastein would have lived for a very long time. Hastein is shown as being a character willing to do whatever is needed to ensure his position. He is seen as orchestrating a significant part of the invasions and conflicts, although he was able to extricate himself from some of the key battles.
Edward is Alfred's legitimate son who becomes king after him. Edward is shown as being initially unsure and needing guidance, which Uhtred was to provide in matters of war and battle Edward begins to gain confidence and establishes his own interests soon after Alfred's death by securing the crown and fighting in East Anglia to defend his interests.
Æthelflæd, who eventually led the Mercians, is shown as an intelligent character who eventually convinces Uhtred to come back and serve the Mercia and Wessex despite the fact that he was at one point wanted for killing a priest. Nevertheless, her care for Uhtred helped her defend him against Wessex anger while he was able to defend her from those who plotted against her, including her own husband who sought to make Merica fully independent from Wessex but was unable to do their poor resource state.
In the 890s, Alfred's weak health has begun to catch up to him and he knew it. He began to groom his son Edward and prepare him for the challenges that were ahead. First, fighting to secure the crown, then keeping the Danes and Viking raids at bay, and finally expand and forge the dream of England that Alfred possessed. While the first two goals were clear and having the burh and military system created by Wessex could prove effective, uniting a country was more complex, as now one had to convince other Anglo-Saxons to accept the idea of England. Alfred did begin to make plans for this by marrying his daughter to the Mercian lord and placing that lord under him, but creating something larger was a challenge.