The Last Kingdom

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The Last Kingdom
BernardCornwell TheLastKingdom.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorBernard Cornwell
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesThe Saxon Stories
GenreHistorical novel
PublishedOctober 4, 2004 HarperCollins
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages400 pp (hardback edition) & 384 pp (paperback edition)
ISBN0-00-714990-5 (first, hardback edition)
Followed byThe 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 11,[1][2][circular reference] teaching him how to be a warrior.

Plot summary[edit]

866 - 876: Osbert is 9 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 re-christened Uhtred. Ealdorman Uhtred seeks to avenge his son's death, but is killed during the failed attack on Eoferwic (York) and Uhtred is captured by the Danish Earl, Ragnar the Fearless. Ragnar, intrigued and amused by the boy's attempted attack on him during the battle, retains him in his household as a thrall. 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 youngest son Rorik and has many clashes with one boy in particular, Sven, son of Kjartan, a shipmaster in Ragnar's small fleet. One day, Sven kidnaps Ragnar's daughter, Thyra, and removes part of her clothing in an effort to sexually assault her. Uhtred charges Sven from hiding, taking Sven's sword and attacking him with it. Uhtred, Rorik, and Thyra escape back to Ragnar's hall. Ragnar, offended and deeply angry, banishes Kjartan from his service, and crushes one of Sven's eyes with the hilt of his sword - adding darkly that he would have crushed both, had Sven stripped Thyra completely naked.

Uhtred then goes viking across East Anglia, and participates in the conquests of Mercia and East Anglia, and the invasion of Wessex. He is kidnapped by a priest, Beocca, an old family friend. He then escapes from Wessex and joins his adopted father Ragnar again. Uhtred enjoys life with the Danes but flees after Kjartan kills Ragnar in revenge, burning down his hall with his former lord inside after kidnapping Thyra.

Uhtred hopes to escape Kjartan's assassins by spreading the rumor that he too died in the hall-burning. 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, Earl Ragnar's eldest son, and tells him how his father died and that Thyra is still alive. They part friends, swearing that one day they will band together to take revenge on Kjartan and rescue Thyra. Seeking to take command of the fleet, Uhtred gains it on the condition that he marry the orphaned Wessex girl Mildrith, whose family is ruinously in debt to the Church. 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, who saves him from death when Guthrum breaks the peace and murders the other Saxon hostages. 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 of Cynwit, where Uhtred finds himself fighting against Ubba Lothbrokson's Danes.

Characters in "The Last Kingdom"[edit]

Cover for the mass-market paperback.


  • Uhtred - 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


Television adaptation[edit]

In July 2014, the BBC announced that production would begin in autumn 2014 on a television adaptation, to be titled The Last Kingdom. Stephen Butchard is the writer. A series of eight 60-minute episodes was produced, and the series began airing on 10 October 2015.[3] BBC Two, Carnival Films and BBC America were involved in the production. As of April 2020, 36 episodes were aired in 4 seasons.

Publication details[edit]

  • 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)


  1. ^ Uhtred of Bebbanburg
  2. ^ "Uhtred of Bebbanburg - DiscoverMiddleAges". 2015-11-18. Retrieved 2018-04-25.
  3. ^ Una Maguire (9 July 2014). "BBC Two announces new drama series, The Last Kingdom". Retrieved 24 July 2014.

External links[edit]