Who Is King Aethelred From Vikings: Valhalla? (& What They Got Wrong About Him)

Who Is King Aethelred From Vikings: Valhalla? (& What They Got Wrong About Him)

It wasn’t a surprise that Vikings: Valhalla, like the original Vikings series, has characters that were inspired or based on their historical counterparts. One such historical character is King Aethelred, who played a huge role in the entire narrative of Vikings: Valhalla and how the main conflict of the series started. But who is King Aethelred from Vikings Valhalla, and what did they get wrong about him?

King Aethelred was the king of the Englishman before King Edmund assumed the throne. He was the king who ordered the death of the Danes living in England in what is called the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. However, historically, he was the one who defended England against the Danish retaliation.

It isn’t a secret that there are differences between the character versions in the series and their historical counterparts. That’s because the showrunners of both Vikings and Vikings: Valhalla tend to have a free hand in how they want to portray the historical characters. In that regard, the way King Aethelred is portrayed should be taken with a grain of salt. And it is important that we talk more about his historical counterpart.

Who Is King Aethelred From Vikings: Valhalla?

Most of the entire narrative of Netflix’s Vikings: Valhalla series actually revolves around the Norsemen’s retaliation effort against the Englishmen for one event that may have contributed to the change in the course of history. In that regard, the one event that we are talking about was sparked by King Aethelred. But who is King Aethelred from Vikings: Valhalla?

King Aethelred was the king that ruled England before King Edmund assumed the throne and led the Englishmen against the attacks of the Danish invaders during the earlier part of the series. However, it was Aethelred’s actions during the first episode that forced the Danes to attack England in a full-on invasion.

During the first episode of the series, King Aethelred ordered the death of all of the Vikings living in England because he thought that they were cockles living amongst the wheat. That means that he saw the Danes as pests that needed to be eradicated from the country. As such, he ordered all of them to be killed on St. Brice’s Day in the event that history calls the St. Brice’s Day Massacre.

RELATED: The St. Brice’s Day Massacre In Vikings: Valhalla Explained (True Story)

Sometime after that massacre, the Danish king Canute mustered up his forces to attack England to retaliate for the death of his people. His goal was to kill King Aethelred himself so that he could give justice to the people who were slain during the St. Brice’s Day Massacre.

Who Is King Aethelred From Vikings: Valhalla? (& What They Got Wrong About Him)

After that, King Aethelred hardly had any roles in the entire series. The next time he was seen, he was already a dying man ready to cede his throne to his son, Prince Edmund. As such, it was Edmund who inherited the responsibility of defending England against the impending Danish attack that came about as a result of what Aethelred did during the St. Brice’s Day Massacre.

Who Plays King Aethelred In Vikings: Valhalla?

King Aethelred, despite having a small role of a king that eventually died early on in the series, is played by veteran Irish actor Bosco Hogan, who started out his career in showbusiness during the early part of the 70s.

Hogan’s first onscreen performance was in 1974 in the movie Zardoz. Since then, he has acted in more than 70 films and shows. He was given the role of Jonathan Harker in the 1977 Count Dracula. Another one of his prominent performances was in 2004 when he acted the role of the Bishop Decoy in King Arthur, which starred Clive Owen.

What Vikings: Valhalla Gets Wrong About King Aethelred

Vikings: Valhalla did a great job in making sure that the St. Brice’s Day Massacre was included in the series. Of course, like the real historical version of the massacre, it was King Aethelred who ordered the death of the Danes living in England at that time. However, there are a lot of discrepancies between the series version and the historical version of this king.

RELATED: Who Is King Edmund From Vikings: Valhalla? (& What They Got Wrong About Him)

For one, King Aethelred didn’t die shortly after he ordered the massacre of the Danes in the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. He actually lived for more than a decade after that event, as the massacre happened in 1002 while Aethelred died in 1016. 

After the massacre, he actually issued an edict that read:

“For it is fully agreed that to all dwelling in this country it will be well known that, since a decree was sent out by me with the counsel of my leading men and magnates, to the effect that all the Danes who had sprung up in this island, sprouting like cockle amongst the wheat, were to be destroyed by a most just extermination, and thus this decree was to be put into effect even as far as death, those Danes who dwelt in the afore-mentioned town, striving to escape death, entered this sanctuary of Christ, having broken by force the doors and bolts, and resolved to make refuge and defence for themselves therein against the people of the town and the suburbs; but when all the people in pursuit strove, forced by necessity, to drive them out, and could not, they set fire to the planks and burnt, as it seems, this church with its ornaments and its books. Afterwards, with God’s aid, it was renewed by me.”

The historical version of King Aethelred also defended England several times from King Sweyn of Denmark’s attacks during the years that followed the St. Brice’s Day Massacre, as it is believed that the killing of the Danes in England was what prompted Forkbeard to launch a full-scale assault on the Englishmen.

Who Is King Aethelred From Vikings: Valhalla? (& What They Got Wrong About Him)

King Aethelred also had to vacate England when Sweyn Forkbeard was seemingly ready to take over the country. As such, he fled to Normandy in 1013 as King Sweyn was proclaimed king of the Danish Englishmen when he took over England. However, after Sweyn died in 1014, Aethelred led an assault to take England back from the Danish.

The king succeeded in driving the Danes out of England in 1014 and ruled as the king until his death in 1016. And before his death, he had to quell a rebellion attempt made by his son, Prince Edmund, who wanted to consolidate power to himself while his father was still in the middle of recovering his country back from the Norsemen.That said, the series was wrong to portray Edmund as the one who led the Englishmen against the Danish attack after the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. The fact is that Aethelred defended England against Sweyn but ultimately lost his country before taking it back once more before he died

  • Ysmael is a self-professed geek that loves anything related to fantasy, sci-fi, video gaming, and anime. Spends his free time watching movies, TV shows and gaming, a lot.