Weird History

Facts About Uhtred The Bold: Ealdorman Of Bamburgh And Inspiration For 'The Last Kingdom'  

Melissa Sartore
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Uhtred of Bebbanburg from the BBC/Netflix show The Last Kingdom never existed, but Uhtred of Bamburgh was a huge inspiration for the character. He lived and fought during the 10th and 11th centuries CE. The real Uhtred the Bold dabbled in medieval politics and intrigue.

Uhtred united Northumbria under his leadership, but the region fell apart when Thurbrand the Hold and Cnut the Great offed the lofty leader in 1016. Uhtred's family continued to dominate Northern England, though, and they eventually avenged their fallen kinsman. 

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He Made A Name For Himself Fighting The Scottish

There's not much information on Uhtred's early life, but sources suggest he was born in 971. In 1005, the Vikings ceased their raids of England due to an outbreak of disease, temporarily returning to Denmark. The Scots sought to take advantage, with King Malcolm II of Scotland attacking the Northumbrian city of Durham in 1006. At this time, Uhtred's father was too old to fight, so his son took the reins.

Uhtred gathered men from Bernicia, Deira, and other parts of Northern England and successfully drove Malcolm's forces back to Scotland. However, 10 years later, the Scottish forces attacked again, and Uhtred suffered a devastating loss.

He Put His Enemies' Heads On Display

After Uhtred's victory over Malcolm II in 1006, the conqueror decapitated the fallen soldiers, taking the heads back to Durham. The heads were cleaned and their hair was combed. Finally, they were placed on stakes and displayed for all to see.

Apparently, each of the four women who cleaned the heads got a cow for doing thorough work.

He Helped Establish The Site Of A Future Cathedral

Despite his boldness in battle and his bloody reputation, Uhtred had a pious side. In the late 10th century CE, Uhtred helped establish the religious community of St. Cuthbert at Durham. St. Cuthbert's monks carried the relics of their saint from Chester-le-Street south to Ripon before finally landing in Durham.

According to Simeon of Durham, Uhtred notably cleared the site for the future cathedral. 

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Photo: Rebecca Kennison/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0
He Married A Bishop's Daughter

Bishop Aldhun led the cathedral at Durham. Soon after the building's establishment, Uhtred married Aldhun's daughter, Ecgfrida. They were united according to Anglo-Saxon custom, and the husband got a large portion of the bishop's land.  

Uhtred later refused to associate with Ecgfrida. In turn, she became a nun, and her family's land returned to the church.