The Lords of the North

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The Lords of the North
BernardCornwell TheLordsOfTheNorth.jpg
First edition cover
Author Bernard Cornwell
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Saxon Stories
Genre Historical novel
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
22 May 2006
Media type Print (hardback)
Pages 366 hardback edition
ISBN 0-00-721968-7 (first, hardback edition)
OCLC 224807788
Preceded by The Pale Horseman
Followed by Sword Song

The Lords of the North is the third historical novel in the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell published in 2006. The story is set in the 9th century Anglo-Saxon kingdoms Wessex and Northumbria. Uhtred wants revenge against his uncle, and falls in love. He fights for both the Danes and for Alfred.

Plot summary[edit]

878 - 881: Uhtred of Bebbanburg makes his way back to his native Northumbria seeking revenge against his uncle Ælfric and childhood enemies Sven the One-Eyed and Kjartan the Cruel. He travels by ship with his friend, Hild. They make landfall near Eoferwic (York) to find the region in disarray. Lord Ivarr Ivarsson and his army are engaged with the Scots in the north. The formerly Danish-held Eoferwic has been conquered by Saxons, who have begun a massacre of Danes under the fanatical Father Hrothweard. The central lands of Dunholm are ravaged by Kjartan and Sven, and Bebbanburg remains under the control of Ælfric. Uhtred is hired to escort a Danish merchant's family north, through Dunholm, to safety.

As they travel and attempt to avoid the Dunholm fortress and Kjartan's troops, they are unsuccessful and are led into a slave trading station led by Sven. In order to prevent himself from being recognised, Uhtred disguises himself as Thorkild the Leper, Dark Swordsman of Niflheim, and convinces Sven he is sent from the dead to haunt him and his father. He frees Danish King Guthred of Cumbraland from the slave pens.

In Cumbraland, Guthred converts to Christianity and is hailed as King of Northumbria by the Saxon Abbot Eadred, who believes Guthred has been anointed by Saint Cuthbert and claims to have dreamed of Guthred, though he initially mistakes Uhtred as being the King. Uhtred becomes the commander of Guthred's household troops, as well as his closest advisor. He trains a band of thirty new warriors and foils an attempt by Kjartan's infiltrators to capture him and Guthred. Whilst serving Guthred, Uhtred is immediately smitten with the King's sister, Gisela. Uhtred marches east with Guthred while Ivarr Ivarsson, the son of Ivar the Boneless and the most powerful Danish Lord in Northumbria, is away fighting the Scots. Eoferwic is captured with ease, and Father Hrothweard joins them. As they march north to Dunholm, Guthred reveals to Uhtred that he has made a deal with Uhtred's treacherous uncle, Ælfric, through his two agents, the monks Jænberht and Ida, for support against Kjartan, which is to be sealed by his enslavement. Uhtred is taken off and cast into slavery at the hands of a Danish merchant, Sverri.

During two years spent chained to the oar of a Danish trading ship, Uhtred befriends Finan the Agile, an Irishman and former warrior. Uhtred notices a red Danish longship pursuing them, which he believes to be pirates. During a trading venture to England, Uhtred is confronted by Sven, who recognises him, but is then scared away by the Red Ship, which attacks Sverri's men. Uhtred is rescued and it is revealed that the ship is crewed by Ragnar and Steapa, and Uhtred is overjoyed to be reunited with his foster-brother and his friend. Uhtred returns to Wessex to learn that it was Hild who convinced Alfred to send Steapa and Ragnar to his rescue. Hild had promised to Alfred that she would use Uhtred's hoard of silver to build an abbey and recommit herself to Christ, and in return Alfred agreed to rescue Uhtred. Upon meeting with a Mercian traveller and spy, Offa, it is revealed to Uhtred that Guthred, Ivarr and Ælfric besieged Kjartan at Dunholm, but failed.

Uhtred, Father Beocca, Steappa and Ragnar are sent on embassy to Guthred with a message to make peace in Northumbria. They arrive in Guthred's court to find that Gisela was married to Ælfric via proxy in return for support in another attack against Kjartan, and that Ivarr has abandoned Guthred and is raising men to fight him. Uhtred is certain his uncle will send no men to support Guthred. He fends off Ælfric's men and kills Brother Jænberht when he insists that Gisela is still married to Ælfric. Out of fear of suffering the same fate, Brother Ida agrees that Gisela is not married, as the marriage has not been consummated. Uhtred then forgives Guthred for casting him into slavery and declares his intention to marry Gisela. Despite the calls of many churchmen to instead execute Uhtred for the killing of Jænberht, Guthred agrees to the marriage and Uhtred and Gisela spend their first night together, after which Uhtred takes command of Guthred's troops for the attack on Dunholm.

Uhtred's plan to take Dunholm is to once again become a sceadugengan, a shadow-walker. In the darkness, he along with eleven of his best men climb the hill upon which Dunholm sits and sneak into the fort through a gate used to fetch well water. Although they are discovered, they are assisted by Ragnar's sister Thyra, who has been held by Sven and Kjartan since the events of The Last Kingdom. Thyra rouses Kjartan's hounds and turns them on their masters, allowing Uhtred and his men to open the gate for Ragnar with the main forces of Guthred's army to enter the stronghold. Kjartan's men are defeated in a Shield Wall, Sven is defeated by Finan, and then savaged to death by the hounds at Thyra's behest, and Kjartan himself is killed in single combat by Ragnar, who refuses to allow him to die with a sword in his hand, denying his entry into Valhalla. After the battle, Guthred transfers control of Dunholm to Ragnar.

After the Battle, Guthred's claim to the throne of Northumbria is still incomplete. Guthred's army meets Ivarr's stronger force in the field. Uhtred provokes Ivarr into single combat and the novel ends with Uhtred winning the duel against Ivarr.


  • Uhtred - the protagonist, narrator, dispossessed Ealdorman of Bebbanburg
  • King Alfred of Wessex - The King of Wessex
  • Guthrum/King Aethelstan - Danish and Christian King of East Anglia
  • Guthred - Danish slave rescued by Uhtred and proclaimed King of Northumbria
  • Gisela - Danish woman, sister of Guthred, marries Uhtred and provides him a son and a daughter.
  • Hild - Saxon woman, a former nun who becomes Uhtred's companion
  • Ragnar Ragnarsson - Danish Warlord, son of Earl Ragnar, and Uhtred's foster brother and close friend
  • Ælfric - Uhtred's uncle and usurper of the throne of Bebbanburg
  • Father Beocca - Alfred's priest and Uhtred's family friend
  • Kjartan the Cruel - Master of Dunholm, killer of Earl Ragnar the Fearless
  • Sven the One-Eyed - One-eyed son of Kjartan, enemy of Uhtred
  • Thyra Ragnarsdottir - Sister of Ragnar, kidnapped by Sven, eventually rescued and marries Father Beocca
  • Ivarr Ivarsson - Danish Warlord, son of Ivar the Boneless
  • Rypere - Saxon boy Uhtred trains
  • Clapa - Danish boy Uhtred trains
  • Sihtric Kjartansson - Kjartan's illegitimate son sworn to Uhtred
  • Jænberht and Ida - Monks in the employ of Ælfric
  • Abbot Eadred - Guthred's chief supporter and possessor of Saint Cuthbert's corpse
  • Father Hrothweard - Priest in Eoferwic
  • Tekil - Warrior employed by Kjartan
  • Sverri Ravnsson - Danish trader from Jutland who buys Uhtred as a slave from
  • Hakka - Sverri's Frisian right-hand man
  • Finan the Agile - Irish slave and warrior Uhtred befriends

Publication details[edit]