The Last Kingdom
First edition cover
|Series||The Saxon Stories|
|4 October 2004|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||400 pp (hardback edition) & 384 pp (paperback edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-00-714990-5 (hardback edition) & ISBN 0-06-053280-7 (paperback edition)|
|Followed by||The Pale Horseman|
The Last Kingdom is the first historical novel in The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell, published in 2004. This story introduces Uhtred Ragnarson, born a Saxon then kidnapped by raiding Danes who raise him from age ten, teaching him how to be a warrior. When his Danish father is killed, Uhtred joins King Alfred of Wessex.
866 - 876: Osbert is 10 years old and the second son of Ealdorman Uhtred, Lord of Bebbanburg in Northumbria. Danes raid Bebbanburg and Ealdorman Uhtred's first son, also called Uhtred, is killed and his body desecrated after he is sent out to scout the raiders. Osbert is now the oldest son of Ealdorman Uhtred and is renamed Uhtred. Ealdorman Uhtred seeks to avenge his son's death. He is killed during the failed attack on Eoferwic (York) and Uhtred is captured by Earl Ragnar the Fearless of the Danes during the battle. Ragnar, intrigued and amused by the boy's attempted attack during the battle, retains him in his household. Uhtred's uncle, Ælfric, takes Bebbanburg and the title of Ealdorman for himself although Uhtred is the rightful heir.
Uhtred describes his life among the Danes, moving to the country with Ragnar and his men, working like a slave and fighting with other boys, slaves and Danes alike. Uhtred befriends Ragnar's son Rorik and has many clashes with one boy in particular, Sven, son of Kjartan, a shipmaster in Ragnar's small fleet. One day, Ragnar's daughter, Thyra, is kidnapped by Sven out in the woods, and he tries to convince her to touch him sexually. Uhtred charges Sven from hiding, taking Sven's sword and chopping into his thigh. He then slashes at Sven's side. Uhtred, Rorik, and Thyra make an escape back to Ragnar's hall where they each recount the tale to Ragnar. He is offended and deeply angry. He proceeds to Kjartan, and crushes one of Sven's eyes with the hilt of his sword.
Uhtred then goes viking across East Anglia, and participates in the conquering of Mercia, East Anglia, and the invasion of Wessex. He is kidnapped by a priest, Beocca, a family friend. He then escapes from Wessex and joins Ragnar again. Uhtred enjoys life with the Danes but flees after Kjartan kills Ragnar in a hall-burning.
Uhtred hopes to escape the assassins of Kjartan by sending out the lie that he died. Uhtred then joins King Alfred in Wessex. There he learns to read and write, and sails with Alfred's fleet of 12 ships against the Danes. After a battle with the Danes he again meets Ragnar the younger, son of Earl Ragnar, the man who adopted him and tells him how his father died. They part but there remains friendship between them. Seeking to take command of the fleet, Uhtred gains it on the condition that he marry the orphaned Wessex girl Mildrith. After doing so, he takes part in a siege against Guthrum, and is among a group of hostages exchanged when the Danes and Saxons agree on peace. Staying with the Danes in the city over winter he again meets Ragnar. When Guthrum breaks the peace and murders the Saxon hostages, Uhtred is saved by Ragnar. Uhtred then escapes to find his wife. She was taken by Odda the Younger, another Wessex ealdorman (earl or noble), to the north. There he fights in the battle at Cynwit, where Uhtred finds himself fighting against Ubba Lothbrokson's Danes. The story ends with Uhtred fighting in a shield-wall and killing Ubba.
Characters in "The Last Kingdom"
- Uhtred - the Protagonist, narrator, dispossessed Ealdorman of Bebbanburg originally called Osbert
- Earl Ragnar the Fearless - Danish warlord who adopts Uhtred
- Ragnar Ragnarsson (Ragnar the Younger) - Ragnar's son, Uhtred's foster brother and close friend
- Rorik Ragnarsson - Ragnar's younger son and Uhtred's childhood friend
- Thyra Ragnarsdottir - Ragnar's daughter kidnapped by Kjartan
- Brida - East Anglian Saxon girl, Uhtred's lover and friend
- Sigrid - Earl Ragnar's wife and mother to Ragnar the Younger, Rorik and Thyra
- Ravn - blind skald and Earl Ragnar's father
- Sven Kjartansson - Uhtred's sworn enemy and Kjartan's son
- Kjartan - Danish shipmaster who destroys Uhtred's future
- Father Beocca - Alfred's priest and Uhtred's family friend
- Mildrith - Uhtred's pious West Saxon wife
- Leofric - Uhtred's friend, warrior and shipmaster
- Odda the Younger - Ealdorman Odda's son and Uhtred's enemy
- Ælfric - Uhtred's uncle and usurper of the throne of Bebbanburg
- Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg - Uhtred's father
- Gytha - Uhtred's stepmother
- King Alfred of Wessex (Alfred the Great) - the King of Wessex
- Æthelflæd - Alfred's eldest daughter, Lady of the Mercians.
- Guthrum the Unlucky - Danish warlord called the unlucky
- Ubba Lothbroksson - Danish warlord feared by many, older brother to Ivar and Halfdan
- Ivar Lothbroksson (Ivar the Boneless) - Danish warlord feared by many, brother to Ubba and Halfdan
- Halfdan Lothbroksson - Danish warlord and younger brother of Ubba and Ivar
- Ælswith - Alfred's wife who dislikes Uhtred
- Æthelwold - Alfred's nephew and friend of Uhtred
- Ealdorman Odda - Earldorman of Wessex
- King Edmund of East Anglia
- King Osbert of Northumbria
- 2004, UK, HarperCollins ISBN 0-00-714990-5, Pub date 4 October 2004, hardback
- 2005, UK, HarperCollins ISBN 0-00-714991-3, Pub date 30 May 2005, paperback
- 2006, UK, HarperCollins ISBN 0-00-721801-X, Pub date 3 October 2005, paperback (mass-market)
- 2006, USA, HarperTorch ISBN 0-06-053280-7, Pub date 30 June 2006, paperback (mass-market)