Uhtred is baptised for the third time, and Mercia gets the ruler it needs.
Aethelflaed of history became the sole ruler of Mercia after her husband Aethelred's death, so the development in this episode was not unexpected. The scene of Uhtred stepping down from his very new position as lord and protector of Mercia to propose Aethelflaed bugged me when I was watching it, however. Aethelflaed has fought many battles for the Mercians. She has led armies and bloodied her hands in the service of the land to which she married into. It did not sit right with me that a man effectively handed her a position that she has earned a hundred times over.
But then, Uhtred rallied Mercian forces to support Aethelflaed against Edward. The Earldormen of Mercia may not have been progressive enough to consider Aethelflaed as the lady of Mercia before Uhtred suggested it, but the people of Mercia loved her. They came when called, though the land was only just recovering from the Battle of Tettenhall and the more recent outbreak of sickness. A fyrd was raised in support of Aethelflaed. They marched to the gates of Aegelesburg to show their support, so that, as Uhtred planned, Aethelflaed would not have to rely on her brother's goodwill to hold on to the power she deserved to wield. More than a show of force, the march of the Mercian fyrd was a show of love and respect for the warrior queen they have followed again and again, through battle after battle, over the years.
Finally, Edward recognised his mistake and apologised to his sister. Together, they plotted to retake East Anglia, which had collapsed into lawlessness since Aethelred left. After East Anglia, they could march on north, to Daneland, to finally see their father's dream of a united England in their lifetime. It was a show of maturity from both children of Alfred -- Edward, because he was willing to back down and correct his wrong, and Aethelflaed, who refused to quarrel with her brother, who repeatedly counselled patience to the Mercians, who diplomatically chose to strengthen their sibling bond rather than force Edward out of Mercia.
Edward had a moment of tenderness, too, with his firstborn son Aethelstan. With Aethelhelm in Wichester, Aelswith felt comfortable enough to keep Aethelstan with her in the palace at Aegelesburg. It was not an arrangement that was meant to last, however. Aelswith proposed to Edward that she take charge of Aethelstan in Bedwyn, to raise him to follow in the footsteps of Alfred and Edward. It was a loaded proposition, for Alfred and Edward became kings, whilst Aethelstan was a complication to a line of succession rather than a widely accepted aetheling. Edward, however, agreed, and said that Uhtred would escort them. In the end, even Edward's anger toward Uhtred waned. It felt like a time to start over for the Saxons.
Unknown to them, the Danes were growing stronger in Wales. King Hywel marched to try and retake his castle, which the clever Sigtryggr anticipated. The battle plan he devised was one that Uhtred would have been proud of; the enemy was practically decimated before they even came close to the Danish ranks. Victory was achieved with little risk to the Danish warriors.
King Hywel approached the castle under the cover of darkness. Sigtryggr was waiting. The Welsh readied for battle, but their approach was halted by a line of fire lit by arrows. Sigtryggr then ordered longbows, which killed much of the Welsh forces unable to advance through the flames. When King Hywel ordered a retreat, arrows rained to light another line of fire, trapping the Welsh. It was easy enough for Sigtryggr's forces to finish off the few that remained of King Hywel's men.
Sigtryggr was content to remain in Wales. As he told Brida, who was intent on returning to fight the Saxons, he would only ask his men to fight for a reason he believed in, be that their families, or food, or land. Brida wanted vengeance for Tettenhall, which was not enough of a reason of Sigtryggr. Brida asked for an escort, which Sigtryggr provided. On her way to seek out allies, Brida ran into Eardwulf, who came to Welsh looking for Danes.
Eardwulf's political climb was finished in Mercia and Wessex. The Mercians may not have liked Aethelred much, but they would not forgive the murder of their lord, nor would they trust the man that prevented them from rushing back to Mercia to perhaps save their families from Danish slaughter. Eardwulf was in search of another powerful patron, and he found it. Brida may have been initially skeptical of him, but the information he provided was one that convinced Sigtryggr to attack the Saxons. Edward was in Aegelesburg with his army. There were only a handful of soldiers left to defend Winchester. It was the prime time to attack the heart of the Saxons, and at little risk to the Danes.
▪︎ Before he was proclaimed the new lord of Mercia, Uhtred had to be baptised, for the third time.
▪︎ The deeply Christian Young Uhtred was not amused with Uhtred's most recent baptism, but he was also not angry with him. He felt his faith growing stronger. He decided to return to Wessex without telling his father.
▪︎ Stiorra was bored in Aegelesburg; she wanted to go with Young Uhtred, to live rather than wait to be married off to someone she despised.
▪︎ I love that Aethelflaed did not hesitate to accept the role as lady of Mercia. She knew she was the right person for the job.
▪︎ Edward objected when Uhtred proposed Aethelflaed to be the lady of Mercia. He argued that if Aethelflaed were to marry, her new husband would become de facto lord of Mercia, bypassing the Witan. Aethelflaed vowed that as long as she was lady of Mercia, she would remain chaste. That effectively ended her relationship with Uhtred.
▪︎ Uhtred told Aethelflaed that he would return to Coccham, because staying at Aegelesburg was too difficult for him.
▪︎ Aldhelm: ‘Your reign was brief, Lord Uhtred, but in that time, you served Mercia well.’
▪︎ After Aethelflaed was declared Lady of Mercia, Edward had his army take over Aegelesburg.
▪︎ Aelswith pointed out to Edward that Uhtred did their family a service; because of him, their family now sat on the thrones of Wessex and Mercia. She assured Edward that Aethelflaed was not a threat to him and would remain loyal to him.
▪︎ Aethelflaed gave Eadith coin as reward for giving her message to Uhtred, but she said Eadith could not remain in Aegelesburg. She was Aethelred's mistress and her brother killed him; her presence in Aegelesburg would make Aethelflaed look weak. Aethelflaed offered to arrange a place for Eadith at a nunnery, but Eadith said she preferred to find her own way.
▪︎ Eadith offered to buy Finan and the rest of Uhtred's crew ale in exchange for travelling with them.
Director: David Moore
Writer: Peter McKenna
Original Release Date: 26 April 2020