The Last Kingdom history: Was Uhtred of Bebbanburg real?

The formidable warrior has a major tie to real British history.

The Last Kingdom stars Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred of Bebbanburg

Since it debuted on television screens back in 2015, The Last Kingdom has enthralled fans with its visceral depiction of early British history.

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From King Alfred the Great to Lady Aethelflaed of Mercia, the show has brought to life many real figures from that unstable period, but the breakout star has been Uhtred of Bebbanburg (played by Alexander Dreymon).

In the show, he is a warrior who works closely with King Alfred to secure the future of England, proving to be a crucial warrior in several epic battles.

But is he based on a real person? The answer is more complicated than you might expect, so read on for our full explanation:

Was Uhtred of Bebbanburg real?

The Uhtred that we meet in The Last Kingdom, born a Saxon nobleman but raised among Vikings and ultimately torn between the warring cultures, is primarily a work of fiction – but not entirely.

While it makes for entertaining viewing in the hit Netflix series, the story of how he was usurped from his ancestral home of Bebbanburg and swore to reclaim it is not based on any historical account.

However, author Bernard Cornwell, who wrote The Last Kingdom books that the show is based on, took inspiration from a real-life nobleman as the basis of Uhtred’s personality.

Uhtred the Bold was an Earl of Northumbria who ruled at Bamburgh Castle in the early 10th century, between the years 1006 and 1016.

This puts him well after the time of King Alfred the Great, who is estimated to have ruled between 848 and 899, meaning the uneasy alliance they share in The Last Kingdom could never actually have occurred.

Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred in The Last Kingdom
Netflix

But there’s evidence to suggest he was a similarly fierce and cunning warrior to that which we see in the show, having been become Ealdorman of Bamburgh after leading a decisive victory against attackers from Scotland.

He would later be named Ealdorman of York and marry Ælfgifu, the daughter of King Ethelred II, further establishing his status as a powerful figure in early England.

However, he would meet a grizzly fate along with 40 of his men, when they were ambushed by the forces of Northumbrian magnate Thurbrand the Hold, thought to be carried out in support of Danish king Cnut the Great.

Speaking to The Guardian in 2015, Cornwell explained how he discovered he was a distant relative of the Uhtred lineage, which is why he settled on the somewhat obscure nobleman as the lead character in his novels.

“They had a family tree, it went all the way back to the 6th century,” he recalled. “They were the Lords of Bebbanburg in Northumberland, there was an Uhtred.”

Cornwell added: We know sod all about him: we have his signature on the charter… the moment I met my real family I thought: ‘S**t, somehow this family survived the coming of the Danes, the Vikings, all the way through to King Canute, there was a family connection.”

You can find out more about the real characters from The Last Kingdom here.

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The Last Kingdom is available to stream on Netflix. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best TV series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide.