The Last Kingdom: Who Was Edward’s Second Wife?

The Last Kingdom Edward Aethelhel and Aelflaed 1
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King Edward (Timothy Innes) got a taste of true love in The Last Kingdom when he married Ecgwynn (Julia Brown), and fans hoped that their Romeo and Juliet story would last. However, giving up the love of his life was one of the prices Edward had to pay for the throne. Despite Edward’s protests, he was forcefully married to Lord Aethelhelm’s daughter, which marked the end of the young king’s happiness for the rest of the show. Most fans still wonder who Edward’s second wife was and whether the character was based on a real person.

Aethelhelm’s daughter was called Aelflaed and was only married to Edward because the royal family wanted to form a strong alliance with her wealthy and powerful father. She knew about Edward’s marriage to Ecgwynn just before her marriage to the king, but her father encouraged her to continue with the wedding anyway. Aelflaed soon fell out of favor with the king as well as Lady Aelswith leading to her son Aelfweard getting sidelined as heir to the throne in favor of Ecgwynn’s son Aethelstan.

Aelflaed was one of the worst queens in The Last Kingdom, as she forgot that marrying the king didn’t necessarily mean that she would be the most powerful woman in Wessex. She bit the hand that fed her when she conspired with her father to undermine Aelswith and Edward and ended up paying a heavy price. So, was the real-life Aelflaed as crooked as her The Last Kingdom version? Let’s delve into it.

Who plays Aelflaed in The Last Kingdom?

Amelia Clarkson as Aelflaed in The Last Kingdom 1

Aelflaed is portrayed by the British actress Amelia Clarkson, famous for playing the role of Young Jane in Jane Eyre, among other big roles on TV.

She has been part of many TV shows in the UK in recent years, including Red Rose, Poldark, Knigtfall, and Our Zoo. Her role as Sophie in Knightfall has a lot of similarities to that of Aelflaed in The Last Kingdom.

Aelflaed was supposed to be an obedient 10th-century wife to Edward, always obeying her husband and living a prayerful life.

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Unlike Aelswith, who played a big role in the king’s decisions, Aelflaed didn’t offer much to Edward in terms of advice and only focused on wifely duties and trying to get Edward to name her son as heir over Aethelstan.

Aelflaed was introduced in the show as a young religious girl that listens to her ambitious father’s advice without question.

She was afraid of talking when she met Edward for the first time because she was afraid of saying something foolish, a point that proves she didn’t have the mental independence needed in a queen.

Since Aelflaed’s role as queen is overshadowed by her father in The Last Kingdom, Clarkson’s performance was limited to a few appearances that don’t heavily influence the storyline.

She still managed to keep the character alive, especially when Aelflaed practiced some independence after she was left in the palace with her controlling mother-in-law.

Clarkson managed to portray the naive 9th-century Saxon girl in Aelflaed perfectly, although the character had little in the form of independence, that is down to the script.

Aelflaed and Edward’s marriage explained

King Edward and Queen Aelflaed in The Last Kingdom

Neither Edward nor Aelflaed wanted the marriage, and they made it clear to each other that their relationship was for convenience.

After marrying Edward and giving birth to her son Aelfweard, the king lost interest in her while the queen mother, Aelswith, also started warming up to Aethelstan after falling out with Lord Aethelhelm because of his ambitions.

Edward never grew to love Aelflaed, and the weight of the responsibilities of kingship only drew him further away from his duties as a husband.

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Aelflaed was also immature as a wife because she only did what her father told her and paid little attention to Edward as a person.

She later conspired with her father to poison Aelswith when Sigtryggr imprisoned them together during The Sack Of Wessex.

Having lost her husband’s ear, Aelflaed became pious and started visiting pilgrimage sites. She was en route to a pilgrimage when assassins sent by her father to attack worshipers in a bid to start a war with the Danes killed her.

Aelflaed’s piety caused Edward to distance himself further from her, and when he met the young and equally wealthy Eadgifu of Kent, he made his mistress.

Aelflaed was only a queen in name only by the time she was killed, and Edward wasn’t even affected by his death. He simply used it as an excuse to marry Eadgifu formally.

Was Aelflaed based on a real person?

Queen Aelflaed before marrying Edward 1

Lady Aelflaed was the real-life second wife of King Edward the Elder, believed to have been married to the king for about ten years between AD 899 and 999.

Her father was Ealdorman Aethelhelm, but he didn’t have the same influence on the king in real life as suggested in the show.

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Aelflaed actually had at least six children in real life, two sons and four daughters. Her eldest son Aelfweard ascended the throne of England for about one month before he died, unlike in the show where he never got the opportunity.

It is not clear why the marriage collapsed in real life, but records suggest that she became a pious woman and practiced a deeply religious lifestyle towards the end of her life.

There is actually no mention of her crowning as queen, although she was married to the king. Records don’t show why she separated from King Edward either, although the king leaving her to marry Eadgifu happened just like the show suggests.

She retired to the Wilton Abbey in Wiltshire, believed to be her birthplace, towards the end of her life alongside two of her daughters, where she was also buried.

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