Is The Last Kingdom based on a true story and were any of the characters real people?

You might be wondering if there’s a direct The Last Kingdom true story that the intense show and Seven Kings Must Die movie are based on…

Is there a The Last Kingdom true story? We reveal all. Seen here is Uhtred in Seven Kings Must Die
(Image credit: Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023)

It's easy to imagine there being a The Last Kingdom true story and some fans might be wondering whether the events of the show and Seven Kings Must Die really happened. 

Set in the 10th century and following the exploits of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, The Last Kingdom on Netflix has amassed fans around the world since it landed in 2015. With gruesome battles, high stakes and emotional moments, The Last Kingdom gives viewers an insight into time where Anglo-Saxons and Vikings lived and fought. After sadly drawing to a close with season 5, The Last Kingdom movie Seven Kings Must Die rounded off the show in dramatic style. But with so many characters and huge plot points you might be wondering if there's one The Last Kingdom true story the show and movie were telling.

Here we reveal if there’s a definitive The Last Kingdom true story and whether any of the hit historical drama’s characters were real people…

*Warning: Spoilers ahead!*

Alexander Dreymon in The Last Kingdom

(Image credit: Netflix)

Is The Last Kingdom based on a true story? 

Unlike Transatlantic on Netflix and the emotional tales told by the narrator in Call the Midwife, for those wondering if there’s a The Last Kingdom true story the answer is technically no, but it is set in a real historical time period. Both Netflix’s hit historical series and the recently released The Last Kingdom movie, Seven Kings Must Die, are both works of historical fiction and were based upon best-selling author Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Chronicles books. 

The series consists of thirteen novels which are set in Anglo-Saxon times when England wasn’t yet a united country, but made up of the separate kingdoms - with Wessex featuring especially prominently.

Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred, Arnas Fedaravicius as Sihtric and Mark Rowley as Finan in The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die

(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023)

As it’s a historical series, many aspects of the plot reflect history, including Alfred the Great’s desire to see a unified Kingdom of England. Everyone’s beloved Saxon-raised-by-Danes Uhtred of Bebbanburg who is the main protagonist of both the books and The Last Kingdom show and movie never existed. However, the character is understood to have been based upon a real-life Uhtred who lived in Bebbanburg which is now known by the modern name of Bamburgh. 

Bernard Cornwell has previously explained to The Guardian how he was inspired to write The Last Kingdom series after discovering he is a descendant of Uhtred. The real Uhtred of Bamburgh died in 1016 and was alive long after Uhtred in The Last Kingdom and Seven Kings Must Die, though he seemingly influenced the character.

In the Seven Kings Must Die movie, we see the Battle of Brunanburh (which did really take place) being fought by a mix of historical and fictional characters. So whilst there is no direct The Last Kingdom true story that the show and movie are based on, Bernard’s books which serve as the main inspiration for them do focus on real historical areas and events. When it comes to the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings many of them did exist, though their representations in The Last Kingdom are fictionalized and don’t rigidly follow history. 

Which The Last Kingdom characters were real people? 

Which Anglo-Saxons in The Last Kingdom were real?

Whilst there might not be any specific The Last Kingdom true story that the show and follow-up Seven Kings Must Die movie are based on, plenty of the Last Kingdom characters really existed. Real-life Anglo-Saxon royals who appear in the show include King Alfred the Great, his wife Ælswith, his son Edward, his daughter Æthelflæd, his son-in-law Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians, his granddaughter Ælfwynn, Lady of the Mercians, and his nephew Æthelwold. 

Alfred the Great in The Last Kingdom season 1

(Image credit: © Carnival Film & Television Ltd.Photographer via Netflix)

As The Last Kingdom goes on we also got to see more of Edward who succeeded Alfred as King. He was married three times, firstly to Ecgwynn, who we first saw in season 3 of The Last Kingdom, and secondly to Ælfflæd who we met in season 4.

By the final installment of the show Edward had met and married his third wife Eadgifu in The Last Kingdom. He’s the father of a son Edmund with her and he also has two more sons, one by each of his other wives - Æthelstan and Ælfweard - that feature prominently in the movie which is set after his death.

Aethelstan in The Last Kingdom

(Image credit: Netflix)

Just like we saw in the Seven Kings Must Die ending, Æthelstan eventually became King and historically after him Edmund took the throne as King of a united England. Although not royals, Brother Asser and Erkenwald, the Bishop of London, were also based on real people and Uhtred of Bebbanburg did exist, albeit in a different time period and with a different history to him than his fictional counterpart. 

Which Vikings in The Last Kingdom were real?

Torn between two worlds, Uhtred of Bebbanburg has grown to love those who raised him and adopted their gods in favor of practicing Christianity. In The Last Kingdom and Seven Kings Must Die many of the Vikings were real people too. This includes Guthrum who became King of East Anglia, Ubba Ragnarsson (son of the great Ragnar Lodbrok who is the main character of fellow historical drama Vikings) and his brothers Ivar the Boneless and Halfdan.

Haesten in The Last Kingdom

(Image credit: Netflix)

Viking chieftain Hastein also existed, though he wasn’t rescued by Uhtred as we saw in the show and Guthred who was a slave who rose to become King of Northumbria also really existed. In Seven Kings Must Die, Anfar, the Viking King of Dublin also makes an appearance and he is another The Last Kingdom character that was real. 

By season 4, Ivar the Boneless’ grandson Sigtryggr also joins the cast and he once ruled Dublin and Viking Northumbria. Cnut was also introduced in this season and he is thought to have been a real-life King of Northumbria. 

Which other The Last Kingdom characters were real?

Constantin in The Last Kingdom

(Image credit: Netflix)

As the series went on fans were introduced to the likes of King Constantin of Alba, the name then given to Scotland, and his nephew Prince Domnal. They weren’t the only other royals that were based on real people and in Seven Kings Must Die we meet Owain ap Dyfnwal, the King of Strathclyde who did exist and Hywel Dda, the King of Deheubarth (the regional name for South Wales) also features in the movie. He and his son Prince Rhodri ap Hywel, who was also a real-life figure, previously appeared in season 4 of the show. 

The Last Kingdom seasons 1-5 and Seven Kings Must Die are available on Netflix.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!