The Last Kingdom

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The Last Kingdom
BernardCornwell TheLastKingdom.jpg
First edition cover
Author Bernard Cornwell
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Saxon Stories
Genre Historical novel
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
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)
OCLC 56647847
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.

Plot summary[edit]

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, like a Helmet God, 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"[edit]

Cover for the mass-market paperback.


  • 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


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 will begin airing on 10 October 2015.[1] BBC Two, Carnival Films and BBC America are involved in the production.

Publication details[edit]


  1. ^ Una Maguire (9 July 2014). "BBC Two announces new drama series, The Last Kingdom". Retrieved 24 July 2014.