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The Birth of a Nation (The Last Kingdom)
The Dawn of a nation
Started with the death of an Empire!
Amazing but true. the beginnings of the birth of the English nation began with the first steps in the death of the greatest Empire the world had seen up until that point. The slow contraction of the Roman Empire that would eventually result Rome being ransacked multiple times and eventually the Emperor would be deposed by a German barbarian and the Empire in the west would be no more.
The British Isles were known from the Bronze age and had traded with the rest of Europe for at least 1,500 years before the Romans arrived. But it was the "British" Isles populated by the Celtic tribes who lived there.
The Romans first arrived under Julius Ceaser around 50 BC but they didn't stay. After a few victories and setting up a few 'client kings' in the south they pretty much left Britain to it's own devices until around a hundred years later under Emperor Claudius when they came back to stay.
The Empire had grown to an unimaginable size that had created some major headaches for the administrators. There were some huge provinces in the south of the Empire that were extremely wealthy, but in central Europe there was a massive frontier where most of the Army was stationed protecting it from the barbarian with very little land for growing the crops or facilities for producing the materials that the Army needed to effectively defend both the Empire and Rome itself.
There were massive and wealthy provinces, but they were far away and the logistics of moving as much food and material as was needed was staggering. But just off the coast of Europe was an Island that was nearly eight hundred miles long and two hundred miles wide at one point. It had good land for growing and was a known source of Tin, Bronze and more importantly GOLD. That land was called Britannia by the Romans. So they came and the Roman occupation of Britain began.
But this Hub isn't about the Romans and what they did. It's about what happened after they left.
A great story that explores what could have been.
While we are looking at that period the novels by Bernard Cornwell set in that time are a really good story that pick up the thread towards the end of the mayhem that was the dark ages and sets out exploring the way the remnants and splintered kingdoms slowly came together to form the nation of the English that we know today.
Every good book should take the reader on a journey and with 'The Last Kingdom' by Bernard Cornwell the journey is through both time and geography to the time before the country of England existed. Back to the time just after the implosion that was the death of the Roman Empire in Western Europe and the rise of the scourge of the west that were the Vikings or Danes.
The Last Kingdom is the first in a series of books that so far has run to seven books (with the way that the seventh, a book I read recently it's not the last with at least one more to come) that tells the story of Saxon Britain and how with the invasion of the Danes Christianity was almost wiped out in the British Isles and but for the vision of one man a King of a minor Kingdom in the West of the country there might not have been an 'England'
For me, the whole series is a journey into the origins of my family and our name. Our name is of Saxon origin and the novels could well be close to what happened with our family. Imagine how it feels to read a bestseller and think 'that's pretty close to what could have happened!'
The story opens in Bebbenburg a Saxon fortress in the Kingdom of Northumbria (now North East England). Uhtred (the main character) and his father are riding along the beach when they see a ship on the horizon. The ship, they can tell is the scourge of the seas, a Danish warship intent on plunder. That is just the prelude to the invasion.
Within days the Danes have invaded in force and Northumbria has fallen. The Danes now have a foothold in Britain. Worse still is that Uhtred's father is killed in battle and Uhtred, a boy of ten is taken captive, the fortress, his birthright is stolen by his uncle and he is a prisoner of the Danes.
From the first page you'll be drawn into the world of the Saxon and the Dane as they fight for what they both want, LAND.
Bernard Cornwell weaves a fantastic story where the Danes aren't totally the villains and the Saxons aren't totally the 'good guys' yet through it all there is one hero. Not perfect but a hero all the same. You'll find yourself cheering for Uhtred as he faces many struggles and fights for what's right.
But more than that, to me it's a story of how it could have been like for my ancestors. One I'll never really know for sure, but that's what books are about aren't they? The Last Kingdom is a book that will be hard to put down, and when you do it'll only be to find and buy the next in the series
The Danes and the rise of King Alfred
Alfred sends Uhtred on a mission to take the border city of Londene (London)
The last Kingdom of the Saxons
When the Danes came it wasn't long until there was only one Kingdom left standing. Even that Kingdom was weak and no one felt that it would remain form long. The Land that had once provided food for the entire Roman Army would soon be under the rule of the Pagan Danes.
But one man stood in the way. A prince by the name of Alfred. The prince became a King and had a vision. He was a strong believer in Christ and his vision was twofold.
- A Kingdom united with all the Angle and Saxon tribes. Literally an Angles land that would later be known as England
- That the land of the Angles would know the faith of Alfred. That it would be a Christian land and a center of the Christian faith taking the good news of Jesus Christ to the Danes and the Pagans across the sea.
History tells the rest of the story. That Alfred's Kingdom may have been the last Kingdom standing against the Danes, but that Kingdom, against all the odds would change History, all because of the vision and determination of one man.