Clarifying the timeline for The Last Kingdom and Uhtred's age

The timeline covered in The Last Kingdom is much clearer in the books than in the TV show. Just how is old is Uhtred at the end?
The Last Kingdom
The Last Kingdom /

The Last Kingdom is a fictionalized account of real events that take place in England in the ninth and tenth centuries. It is told from the point of view of a fictional character, a man with ties to both the Saxon and Danish worlds: Uhtred of Bebbanburg (modern-day Bamburgh).

The show is based on a series of books called The Saxon Stories by author Bernard Cornwell, who based the character of Uhtred on one of his real-life ancient ancestors, also named Uhtred, although the real Uhtred lived about a century later than the one from The Last Kingdom.

As the TV show progresses through five seasons and a movie, Seven Kings Must Die, Uhtred — played by actor Alexander Dreymon — barely ages, though he does get progressively older in the books. The first book in the series, titled The Last Kingdom, begins in 866, when Uhtred is about 10 or 11 years old. This puts Uhtred's birth around 855. Uhtred becomes the reluctant warrior henchman for King Alfred of Wessex when he's about 16 years old. The real Alfred ascended to the throne in 871.

Milestones happen that give us clues about Uhtred's age as time passes. Uhtred plays a part in saving Alfred's baby, Edward, who was born in 874. This takes place in season 1 of the show, and book two of the series. Uhtred is about 19 at this point. The Battle of Edington occurs in 877 and leads to the defeat and eventual baptism of the Dane leader, Guthrum. Uhtred, now in his early twenties, participates.

The TV audience knows Uhtred is getting older, if for no other reason than because Alfred's children age. We see Uhtred train young Edward and befriend Alfred's daughter Aethelflaed. He grows very affectionate toward both both Edward's children.

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The Last Kingdom Season 4 -- Courtesy of Netflix /

By the time King Alfred dies in 899, Uhtred is in his mid-forties. He develops a romantic relationship with Aethelflaed, who is approximately 15 years his junior. She develops a reputation as a warrior as well, and takes over Mercia when her husband dies in 911. When she dies in early 919, at the age 49. Uhtred is in his sixties.

Aethelflaed dies in Uhtred's arms in season 5 of the show. Since Alfred's death 20 years earlier, Wessex had been ruled by his son, Edward. The king isn't portrayed as a particularly strong man, but he does accomplish much of what Alfred wanted. Edward unites much of southern and eastern England, though Aethelfraed took York in 918, right before her death.

Edward rules until his death in 924, when Uhtred is nearly 70. Throughout all of this, Alexander Dreymon barely looks like he gets older at all. The timeline really goes askew once the TV show ends and the last three books are squeezed into a two-hour movie called Seven Kings Must Die; before, each new season of TV had covered two books apiece.

Seven Kings Must Die begins with Edward's death and the ascension by his son, Athelstan, to the throne. The movie squeezes 13 years of history into two hours, but led the audience to believe that it takes place over a much briefer span of time.

Athelstan's goal is to bring Northumbria under his control, but that land is occupied by Saxons and Danes, and coveted by the Scots. Through complicated machinations, this culminates in the Battle of Brunanburh, which Athelstan wins and brings most of modern-day England under one banner for the first time.

The movie reveals that this battle takes place in 937, though it isn't clear that it's 13 years into Athelstan's reign. The movie also shows Uhtred playing a key role on the battle, as he had done so often through the decades for the king's grandfather, father, and aunt.

Uhtred is 82 years old in 937, although typically, Dreymon doesn't look it. He's been fighting battles for the Wessex kings since 871, a period of 66 years. The movie ends ambiguously, with a battle-injured Uhtred standing at the threshold of Valhalla, and the audience is left to assume he takes the next step into the afterlife.

In the books, Uhtred tells the story of his life from his castle in Bebbanburg, where he's well into his 90s. When making the show and movie, someone decided they just weren't going to age Uhtred in obvious ways. He was going to be the vibrant, unbeatable warrior he had always been, but that was confusing for audiences.

If you weren't familiar with the incredible books, it would have been very easy to lose track of how old Uhtred was at any given moment during the series. Hopefully, Uhtred's age timeline is cleared up and all can see what an incredible life our intrepid, fictional hero lived in The Last Kingdom.

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