Uhtred of Bebbanburg – A Fictional Character?
Uhtred of Bebbanburg is a son of the Saxon Ealdorman Uhtred, Lord of Bebbanburg, and was born in Northumbria. He lived during the era of Alfred the Great in the late 9th century, when Britain was divided up between warring kingdoms, each one with it’s own king. The Danes had already landed, and conquered large parts of Britain. Uhtred was brought up to know that these other kingdoms and the Danes were his enemy, and the enemy of his kingdom.
Uhtred, who was originally named Osbert, was not the first born. He had an older brother also called Uhtred, who died in battle against the Danes. The name Uhtred was given to first born sons, and so it passed down to Osbert, after his brother’s death.
This all sounds like a very plausible story, realistically following historical events back in the Saxon times. However, Uhtred of Bebbanburg was indeed a fictional character. He was created by the author of The Saxon Stories, Bernard Cornwell. Uhtred first appears in the The Last Kingdom, which is the first book in the Saxon series.
- 1 So why question whether Uhtred of Bebbanburg was fictional?
- 2 Uhtred in The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
- 3 More Saxon Stories in the Series by Bernard Cornwell
So why question whether Uhtred of Bebbanburg was fictional?
Well, Bernard’s family tree had been traced back to the 6th century by his father. While searching through this historical family tree, Bernard discovered he was descended from Uchtred the Bold (Uhtred), an Ealdorman of Northumbria and Lord of Bamburgh! Uhtred the Bold reigned from 1006 to 1016, when he met his death at the hands of Sweyn Forkbeard. It was this fascinating link that inspired Bernard to write The Last Kingdom and the rest of the Saxon stories with Uhtred of Bebbanburg at its helm.
Uhtred in The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
We know that Bernard Cornwell created Uhtred for the Last Kingdom, and the Saxon Stories series, so what is the book about?
In the late 9th century, the Viking Danes had set sail across the sea and arrived in Northumbria. Following the usual trend of Viking behaviour of invasion, pillaging and conquering, they captured York. York was a major town in the North, and was seen as a vital victory for the Danes. Uhtred’s father, Ealdorman Uhtred decided to try and take back York with a small army. Uhtred (of Bebbanburg) did not want to be left behind with the priest, and so the 9 year old secretly followed his father into battle.
Uhtred of Bebbanburg was captured by Ragnar the Fearless, after his father was defeated, and taken to live amongst the Danes. Initially Uhtred was kept as a slave, but through his fighting spirit, courage and determination, Ragnar grew fond of him. Some time passed, and Uhtred began adopting the Viking way, worshipping their Gods and enjoying the free spirited life that the Danes led. Soon enough, Uhtred was treated like a brother and son to Ragnar’s family.
Things would soon change though. A squabble between children from different families within the Danish camp, led to Ragnar banishing another Viking, Kjartan. Keen to seek revenge, Kjartan attacked Ragnar’s home with fire. The outcome was not good for Uhtred’s adopted family, and he was forced to flee. But where would Uhtred go?
With allies dropping on both the Saxon side and the Viking side, Uhtred found himself in Wessex. There he would join the service of Alfred the Great, in what was the last unconquered Saxon kingdom. Not always seeing eye to eye with Alfred, Uhtred’s destiny was still linked with Alfred’s, and the desire to get Bebbanburg could only be achieved with Alfred’s help.
More Saxon Stories in the Series by Bernard Cornwell
Uhtred of Bebbanburg features throughout the Saxon Stories series, on a quest to seek what is rightfully his. Here are the books in the series:
The Last Kingdom
Uhtred is an English boy, born into the aristocracy of ninth-century Northumbria. Orphaned at ten, he is captured and adopted by a Dane and taught the Viking ways. Yet Uhtred’s fate is indissolubly bound up with Alfred, King of Wessex, who rules over the only English kingdom to survive the Danish assault.
The struggle between the English and the Danes and the strife between Christianity and paganism is the background to Uhtred’s growing up. He is left uncertain of his loyalties but a slaughter in a winter dawn propels him to the English side and he will become a man just as the Danes launch their fiercest attack yet on Alfred’s kingdom. Marriage ties him further still to the West Saxon cause but when his wife and child vanish in the chaos of the Danish invasion, Uhtred is driven to face the greatest of the Viking chieftains in a battle beside the sea. There, in the horror of the shield-wall, he discovers his true allegiance.
Read the reviews of The Last Kingdom here!
The Pale Horseman
Uhtred is a Saxon, cheated of his inheritance, adrift in a world of fire and treachery.
He has to make a choice: whether to fight for the Vikings who raised him, or for King Alfred who dislikes him.
Alfred and Uhtred make unlikely allies. The king is a pious Christian, Uhtred a Pagan and warrior.
Yet two forge an uneasy alliance that will lead them out of the marshes to the stark hilltop where the last remaining army will fight for the very existence of England.
Read the reviews of The Pale Horseman here!
The Lords of the North
The year is 878 and the Vikings have been thrown out of Wessex. Uhtred, fresh from fighting for Alfred in the battle to free Wessex, travels north to seek revenge for his father’s death, killed in a bloody raid by Uhtred’s old enemy, renegade Danish lord, Kjartan.
While Kjartan lurks in his formidable stronghold of Dunholm, the north is overrun by chaos, rebellion and fear. Together with a small band of warriors, Uhtred plans his attack on his enemy, revenge fuelling his anger, resolute on bloody retribution. But, he finds himself betrayed and ends up on a desperate slave voyage to Iceland.
Rescued by a remarkable alliance of old friends and enemies, he and his allies, together with Alfred the Great, are free to fight once more in a battle for power, glory and honour.
Read the reviews of The Lords of the North here!
The year is 885, and England is at peace, divided between the Danish kingdom to the north and Alfred’s kingdom of Wessex in the south. But trouble stirs, a dead man has risen and new Vikings have arrived to occupy London.
It is a dangerous time, and it falls to Uhtred, half Saxon, half Dane, a man feared and respected the length and breadth of Britain, to expel the Viking raiders and take control of London for Alfred.
His uncertain loyalties must now decide England’s future.
Read the reviews of the Sword Song here!
The Burning Land
The enemy is massing on the borders, a united force for once. The king, a man of many victories, is in failing health, and his heir is an untested youth.
Uhtred, the king’s champion, leads his country’s forces to war but his victory is soured by personal tragedy and by the envy of the king’s court.
So he breaks with the king and takes off for the land of his birth, determined to resist all calls for his return.
That is, until one unexpected request…
Read the reviews of The Burning Land here!
Death of Kings
Alfred, the great king, is said to be dying. Rivals for his succession are poised to tear the kingdom apart. The country Alfred has worked thirty years to build is about to disintegrate.
Uhtred, the King’s warrior, Viking born but Saxon bred, wants more than anything else to go and fight to reclaim his stolen Northumbrian inheritance. But he knows that if he deserts the King’s cause, Alfred’s dream, and indeed the very future of the English nation, will very likely vanish.
Death of Kings is an outstanding novel by a master storyteller of how England was made, and very nearly lost.
Read the reviews of the Death of Kings here!
The Pagan Lord
At the dawn of the tenth century Britain stands as a divided realm. The Danes rule the north, the Saxons, led by King Edward of Wessex, hold the south. But the uneasy peace cannot hold.
Uhtred, the late King Alfred’s celebrated warrior, must journey across Britain to recapture his ancestral home and the greatest fortress of the north, Bebbanburg. But the Viking lord Cnut Longsword is raising an army and, as his battle-leaders unite, loyalties will be divided and men will fall, as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into a bloody clash with the Danes.
And it is Uhtred, lord of the outcasts, who will decide the fate of the nation.
Read the reviews of The Pagan Lord here!
The Empty Throne
In the battle for power, there can be only one ruler. The ruler of Mercia is dying, leaving no apparent heir. His wife is a born leader, but no woman has ever ruled over an English kingdom. And she is without her greatest warrior and champion, Uhtred of Bebbanburg.
An empty throne leaves the kingdom exposed to rival West Saxons and to the Vikings, who are on a bloody rampage once more. A hero is needed, a hero who has been in battle all his life, who can destroy the double threat to Mercia.
A hero who will ultimately decide the fate of a nation…
Read the reviews of The Empty Throne here!
Warriors of the Storm
A fragile peace is about to be broken…King Alfred’s son Edward and formidable daughter, Æthelflaed, rule Wessex, Mercia and East Anglia. But all around the restless Northmen, eyeing the rich lands and wealthy churches, are mounting raids.
Uhtred of Bebbanburg, the kingdoms’ greatest warrior, controls northern Mercia from the strongly fortified city of Chester. But forces are rising up against him. Northmen allied to the Irish, led by the fierce warrior Ragnall Ivarson, are soon joined by the Northumbrians, and their strength could prove overwhelming. Despite the gathering threat, both Edward and Æthelflaed are reluctant to move out of the safety of their fortifications. But with Uhtred’s own daughter married to Ivarson’s brother, who can be trusted?
In the struggle between family and loyalty, between personal ambition and political commitment, there will be no easy path. But a man with a warrior’s courage may be able to find it. Such a man is Uhtred,and this may be his finest hour.
Read the reviews of the Warriors of the Storm here!
Further Reading and Viewing
The Last Kingdom trailer:
Behind the scenes trailer of The Last Kingdom:
Interview with Bernard Cornwell: