‘The Last Kingdom’: Why Alfred Becomes the King Over Aethelwold

In the hit series The Last Kingdom, Prince Alfred (David Dawson) eventually becomes the King of Wessex after the death of his brother in the ninth century. Why doesn’t the right pass to Aethelwold (Harry McEntire), King Aethelred’s (Alec Newman) son? We have all the details you need to know.

King Aethelred admits that Prince Alfred is his successor

Alexander Dreymon and David Dawson in 'The Last Kingdom'
Alexander Dreymon and David Dawson in ‘The Last Kingdom’ | © Carnival Film & Television Ltd/Kata Vermes/Netflix

In season 1, episode 2, Aethelwold is caught sleeping in the palace gardens after getting drunk, something he’s known to do. He’s taken to his father, who chastises him for being drunk again. Aethelred is clearly not happy with him, and he says, “Aethelwold, your years do not hide the fact that you are a disappointment.” He also adds: “You are an unsuitable heir.”

Aethelwold insists that he will “change,” and his father says he should “become a man” and do it “quickly.” Although Aethelwold walks away after saying he’ll start changing “today,” his father isn’t convinced.

After making a crude joke about Aethelwold’s parentage, he tells his friend and advisor, Odda the Elder (Simon Kunz), “If I’m to fall in the battles that will come, he cannot be king.”

“You favor Alfred?” Odda asks.

“I do,” the king admits, eventually adding, “Alfred is my heir, he knows it. And when the time comes, Odda, my friend, you must steer the Witan to make this choice.”

Why Alfred becomes the King over Aethelwold

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Aethelred chooses Alfred as his successor, and he mentions it more than once. When he’s killed by a blow in battle near Abbendum, his son, Aethelwold, tries to say that he heard his father relay that he is to be the next king, but Odda sets him straight that Aethelred revealed Alfred as the heir.

Everyone recognizes Alfred as the right person for the job as king, and he was right in following the main character, Uhtred’s (Alexander Dreymon) advice to fight on a strategic hill near Abbendum, although the king died in the process. Everyone knows he’s fully capable of carrying the burden of kingship as he was a trusted adviser to his brother as well. His intelligence is plain for all to see, plus he’s the brother of the king.

It’s an easy choice over Aethelwold, who easily lies to get his way and doesn’t take ruling or the burdens of kingship seriously. He isn’t concerned about the people or what’s best for Wessex, only what’s best for himself. He’s been known to overindulge, and he isn’t a serious contender for the throne.

King Alfred the Great of Wessex

Although a Witan isn’t shown, it surely took place, as it’s how the ealdorman choose their next king. Alfred is proclaimed king in a lavish ceremony, and he goes on to become one of the most famous men of his time. He fights the Vikings head-on with Uhtred, a Saxon turned Viking, by his side, at least sometimes. They have a more than tumultuous relationship over the years, with neither one fully ready to trust the other at any given moment. 

King Alfred is a king to be reckoned with, and he gives the Vikings a run for their money over the years. Aethelwold never stops wanting power, and he’s willing to do many heinous deeds to grasp for it.