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The Last Kingdom
Historical Fiction
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Saxon Tales #1
Trade Paperback
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The Last Kingdom-

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, teaching him how to be a warrior.

The Last Kingdom
(First edition cover)
Author: Bernard Cornwell
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Series: The Saxon Stories
Genre: Historical novel
Published: October 4, 2004 HarperCollins
Media type: Print (HC & PB)
Pages: 400pp (HC), 384pp (PB)
ISBN: 0-00-714990-5 (HC ed.)
OCLC: 56647847
Followed by: The Pale Horseman

Plot summary:

866 - 876AD: 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 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 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 banish Kjartan, and crushes one of Sven’s eyes out with the hilt of his sword since he only saw part of his daughter Thyra’s nakedness.

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, an old family friend. He then escapes from Wessex and joins his adopted father Ragnar again. Uhtred enjoys life with the Danes, like a Helmet God, but flees after Kjartan kills Ragnar in a revenge attack hall-burning.

Uhtred hopes to escape the assassins of Kjartan by sending out the lie 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, 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”:
(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


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

Television adaptation:

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. BBC Two, Carnival Films and BBC America were involved in the production.

Publication details:

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)

ISBN-13 978-0060172916
Bernard Cornwell
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