The Kingdom of Mercia
Alfred and Aelswiths beloved daughter. Aethelflaed is strong, brave and intelligent; she has a mind as thoughtful as her fathers and a will as strong as her mothers. Ever grateful towards Uhtred for protecting her family in the dark days before the battle of Ethandun, the two share a kinship that will be put to the test in a time of great need.
- Action Girl: She was trained in combat by Steapa, and puts his lessons to good use. It's noted that the Mercian warriors see her as their true leader, not Aethelred. She leads the Mercian charge against the Danes in the Season 3 finale.
- Arranged Marriage: To Aethelred, who has the gall to lowball the marriage price.
- Awful Wedded Life: Being married to Aethelred is no picnic, although she eventually manages to avoid his abuse by gaining the loyalty of the Mercian people.
- Big Damn Heroes: Her charge leading Mercian cavalry into the Danes in the finale of Season 3 saves her brother Edward and Uhtred's army from being overrun.
- BrotherSister Team: She and her brother Edward are determined to continue their father's work to build England.
- English Rose: A Saxon princess, the beloved daughter of King Alfred who dreams of uniting the separate kingdoms of England. She's beautiful, brave and intelligent with a keen sense of authority. She has dark hair and very fair skin with pink undertones and she's growing into the warrior queen archetype.
- Marital Rape License: Aethelred believes that as his wife, Aethelflaed is his property. In turn he brutally rapes her on their wedding night.
- Nice Girl: She's a very sweet woman.
- Pet the Dog: She's far kinder, more generous and nicer to Uhtred than her parents.
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: She has dark hair and very fair skin with pink undertones. Admired for her beauty by most, and the more worthy people also appreciate her inner beauty and kindness.
- Star-Crossed Lovers:
- With Erik, her Dane kidnapper, who shows her far more love and care than her own husband.
- Later, with Uhtred himself, after she takes an oath of celibacy in exchange for the Mercian throne.
- The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: In Season 4. She loves Uhtred, but a requirement of her ascendancy to the throne of Mercia is that she take an oath of celibacy and thus forsake her own desires for the good of her kingdom. Within an episode of taking the throne, she has adjusted to her role enough that she responds to the news that Uhtred is likely dead with only a brief show of pain before accepting that there are greater matters to deal with.
Arrogant lord of Mercia. Aethelred appears to be both the perfect match for Aethelflaed and a good ally for Alfred as he strives to extend his influence outside Wessex. But in moments of weakness Aethelred is plagued by insecurity, and is rarely seen without his advisor Aldhelm by whom he is easily influenced in matters both personal and political.
- Alas, Poor Villain: He becomes oddly pitiable in his last days, in part because the head trauma means that half the time he can barely remember what bad things he did to make people hate him and during moments of clarity can realize he deserves it a little.
- Arranged Marriage: He arranges for his own marriage to Aethelflaed, bartering with Wessex and trying to lowball the marriage price.
- Awful Wedded Life: He makes life hell for Aethelflaed, raping her on their wedding night and coldly mistreating her. This turns out to have repercussions for him.
- Bad Boss: He stabs Aldhelm for disobeying him, and leaves him to die in Wessex. Fortunately Aldhelm is a survivor by nature.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Aethelred really should be more threatening than he is due to the resources and power he's inherited, but he's too short-sighted, foolish and reactive to be much of a threat by himself. He only really becomes a threat when allied with people who actually have plans of their own.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: In public, he's polite and kind. In private, he's a ruthlessly ambitious borderline sociopath.
- Death by Falling Over: Getting knocked over in a battle causes him to split his skull open and slowly begin to inevitably die.
- Domestic Abuse: He follows up his rape of Athelflaed with regular physical violence and intimidation.
- Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Aethelred is a handsome young man, but behind that pretty face lurks a cruel sadist.
- Faux Affably Evil: He's capable of feigning politeness, but he's sneering and contemptuous.
- General Failure: While his commander, Eardwulf, bears some share of the blame, Aethelred goes campaigning in East Anglia for a land grab that will bolster his reputation, leaving Mercia defenceless against Cnut's army that all but completely destroys the region in his absence.
- Hate Sink: He proves to be both equal parts loathsome and useless.
- Humiliation Conga: Erik and Sigefrid publicly humiliate him before everyone (Erik forces him to kneel in front of everyone at Beamfleot, while Sigefried has one of his own men knock Aethelred unconcious then dump him naked in a pig pen so they can negotiate with Uhtred without his interference); Aethelred most certainly deserved it.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: He holds every other living thing in contempt and is endlessly arrogant, but he's also deeply insecure. He's forever obsessed with the idea that others are tricking him or trying to make a fool out of him.
- It's All About Me: Aethelred's primary concern is Aethelred. He doesn't even care about his own country. His selfish and casually cruel attitude prompts Aldhelm to betray him.
- Jerkass Has a Point: While it doesn't change the fact that he's a psychopathic little shit, he's not wrong to point out how colossally stupid it was to to trust information delivered by Haesten.
- King In Name Only: By Season 3, even Aldhelm considers Aethelflaed the true leader of Mercia.
- Laser-Guided Karma: After being mortally wounded, he realizes quickly everyone hates him and nobody is upset to see him go. He's left broken on his deathbed and realizes how badly he's wasted his life.
- Marital Rape License: He believes that a woman is the property of her husband. As such, he rapes his new wife Aethelflaed on their wedding night.
- Miles Gloriosus: He wastes most of Season 4 raiding villages in East Anglia so he can claim the land and improve his reputation enough to split off from Wessex, completely oblivious to the fact that Cnut and Brida have all but destroyed Mercia in his absence.
- Pet the Dog: When on his deathbed, he vows to Aethelflaed not to marry off her daughter without discussing it with her. When approached with a profitable match for her, he intends to keep his word and refuses without speaking to her.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: His views of women are hateful even for the time period. He's also prejudiced toward Danes.
- Pretty Boy: He's a good-looking fellow. This is the nicest thing that can be said about him.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: He takes his anger out on Aethelflaed by raping her brutally on their wedding night.
- Reformed, but Rejected: He tries, at the last days of his life, to change by apologizig to Aetheflaed. She makes some peace with him but coolly rejects any overtures at friendliness or forgiveness.
- Skewed Priorities: Throughout Season 3, he's more interested in trying to have Aethelflaed murdered and consolidating his power in Mercia once Alfred dies, rather than acknowledge the threat of a Danish invasion that requires both Wessex and Mercia allied together to defeat.
- Smug Snake: He's not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, and is only able to summon the courage to be his real, vile self when he's certain of his own safety. Strangely, his idiocy is part of what makes him so dangerous, since he's such a thundering dumbass that he acts without really considering the consequences.
- Undignified Death: Murdered agonizingly in his bed, in pure terror, by a man he'd mistreated.
The daughter of Aethelflaed and Erik, though legally she is Aethelred's daughter which puts her in line for the Mercian throne.
- Animal Lover: She's frequently seen carrying around a bird cage.
- Arranged Marriage: The Mercian nobles quickly try to get one for her after Aethelred's fatal wounding. Eardwulf manages to persuade Edward to give her to him, though this falls apart after his murder of Aethelred is revealed.
- Chocolate Baby: Her pale skin and light hair mark her as a half-Dane, according to Aethelred.
- The Ghost: She's mentioned in Season 3 but doesn't appear until Season 4.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Eadith takes on somewhat of a big sister role to her and they hug before parting ways.
- Living MacGuffin: Her status as Mercia's only heir give her some importance since many of the Mercian nobles view her as their ticket onto the throne after her step-father's passing.
- Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Aethelred makes it very clear that he doesn't believe she's his daughter and Aethelflaed doesn't do much to dissuade this notion.
- Someone to Remember Him By: Erik died before Aethelflaed even realized she was pregnant.
Last king of independent Mercia. Ceolwulf is not happy with Alfred's lack of support for Mercia, and strives to make his country a military power once again
Mercian Royal Court
Aethelreds ambitious and scheming right-hand-man, and commander of his household troops. Resents Mercias subservience to Wessex, and has plans to reverse the line of dominance.
- All Love Is Unrequited: He openly admits he's in love with Aethelflaed, and while he knows she doesn't reciprocate his feelings, it doesn't stop Aldhelm from being loyal to her.
- Deadpan Snarker: He has a dry wit when he thinks he can get away with it.
- The Dragon: To Aethelred. Until his HeelFace Turn.
- Everyone Has Standards: He's disgusted by his master's plans to make Mercia independent and ally with Aethelwold and the Danes once Alfred is dead. He also clearly doesn't approve of Aethelred's plan to try and assassinate Aethelflaed and even warns her of her husband's malicious intent.
- HeelFace Turn: Spends Season 2 as Aethelred's loyal but manipulative advisor, serving as the brains behind his schemes, but grows disillusioned with his lord in Season 3 and begins to see Aethelflaed as the better choice to rule Mercia.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Aldhelm is very much the brains behind Aethelred; he is much more aware of political realities than his master, and if Aethelred does something clever, it's safe to assume it's because Aldhelm told him to do so or otherwise tricked him into it.
- Only Sane Man: He rapidly becomes this in Season 3 as he has to contend with his lord's pettiness and spitefulness towards his wife and the alliance with Wessex. He even has to point out to Aethelred it's not a good idea to try and plan Aethelflaed's assassination when her father and brother are close at hand.
- Pet the Dog: He sincerely thanks Uhtred for ceding the throne of Mercia to Aethelflaed.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: In the Season 3 finale, when a grieving and furious Father Beocca breaks up a meeting between Aethelred, Aethelwold and several other potentially traitorous lords by smashing their table with an axe, Aldhelm quickly intervenes before Beocca or Aethelred can start a fight. He holds Beocca back, urges Aethelred not to use his sword, and judging from his expression, clearly agrees with Boecca's denunciation of Aethelwold.
- Rousing Speech: He gives a brief speech to the men of Mercia after Alfred promises to aid them."In my hand, I have a letter from Alfred of Wessex! It is the promise of one thousand men! It is the one thousand men demanded by our lord, Aethelred of Mercia, to fight alongside the great fryd of Mercia to help rid Lunden of the filthy, stinking, pox-ridden, pig's-arse ugly, heathen, Danish bastards! A toast! A toast! To the warriors of Mercia. Where we go, Alfred and Wessex shall follow. And we shall rise! - We shall rise!"
A disgraced Mercian noblewoman who schemes with her brother Eardwulf to reclaim their position by courting Aethelred's favor.
- Big Damn Heroes: Saves Uhtred and his companions from dying by hanging upside down by distracting the guards and freeing them.
- Dark Mistress: She would prefer it otherwise, as she finds Aethelred repulsive, but Aethelred lusts after her and she's willing to use that so that she and her brother can regain their status.
- Everyone Has Standards: She's clearly appalled when she witnesses her brother murder Aethelred.
- Fiery Redhead: She's got flame-red hair and isn't afraid to speak her mind.
- HeelFace Turn: After Aethelred is dead, she gives her loyalty to Uhtred and grows fond of Aethelflaed's daughter.
- No Place for Me There: Despite Eadith's friendship with her daughter, Aethelflaed sadly tells Eadith she can't remain at the Mercian court, since people would think her weak if she kept her husband's former mistress, as well as his murderer's sister, close. Eadith accepts that she's effectively being banished and chooses to follow Uhtred to Wessex.
- Not So Different: She invokes this trope outright when Aethelflaed asks Eadith why she's helping the former escape Mercia, telling Aethelflaed they're both women of Mercia who've been mistreated by Aethelred and whose brothers have turned on them.
- Silk Hiding Steel: She uses her wiles and a knife to overpower and kill one of the guards Haesten left to guard Uhtred and his men, and volunteers herself to sneak into the occupied Winchester to try and get intelligence for Uhtred on Sigtryggr's army.
- Ship Tease: With Finan.
- Pet the Dog: When Aethelred is dying, she does try to provide him with some comfort on his deathbed and forgives him when, in one of his more lucid moments, he apologises for mistreating her.
- Playing Hard to Get: Recognizes that, once she sleeps with Aethelred, his interest in her is likely to fade. So she teases him along for as long as she can, finally relenting to try and cushion the blow when her brother has to report that Danes are laying waste to Mercia thanks to his ill-conceived invasion of East Anglia.
- Portrayed By: Jamie Blackley
A disgraced Mercian nobleman seeking to regain his family's position by acting as Aethelred's new advisor.
- Ambition Is Evil: He's a power hungry guy, and has few scruples about what he has to do to gain that power.
- Can't Take Criticism: Eardwulf's response to Stiorra telling him he's a self-pitying piece of shit with no one to blame but himself for his problems is to pull a knife on her.
- Didn't Think This Through: After murdering Aethelred, Eardwulf takes his signet ring as a trophy. When Eadith exposes him as Aethelred's murderer, his men find the ring on his person, confirming her accusations as true.
- Dragon with an Agenda: He's Aethelred's loyal henchman only because he hopes Aethelred will restore his family's name. Once Aethelred tells him on his death bed he will never allow Eardwulf to rule Mercia, Eardwulf kills him without hesitation.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Even he is horrified that Brida orders her men to desecrate the men buried at Winchester. This just after Brida and Sigtryggr watched him rob the dead of Winchester for silver, on top of everything else he has done.
- Make an Example of Them: When Sigtryggr asks him whether it is better to rule with love (As Stiorra has told him her father and Alfred did) or fear, Eardwulf says fear. Sitryggr decides to use him to test that theory.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: Eardwulf is a little too eager to employ murder to deal with his problems. Eadith tells him Aethelred suggested murdering Aethelflaed? Hail it as a brilliant idea, so she can marry him. A messenger from Wessex tells him Mercia has been attacked by the Danes, and knowing it's his fault Mercia was undefended? Stab the messenger and bury him in a shallow grave. Aethelred refuses to agree to betroth him to Aelfwynn? Kill the dying Aethelred. Realizing siding with the Danes has left him with nothing to gain? Try to kill Stiorra to gain some revenge against Uhtred.
- Never My Fault: He blames his downfall and banishment from Mercia on Uthred for corrupting his sister into turning on him, rather than the fact he murdered Aethelred. Stiorra sets him straight, even while he's threatening to murder her that he's a self-pitying piece of crap who has no one to blame for his problems but himself.
- Oh, Crap!: When he realises he now has to tell Aethelred that the information that Haesten gave him was false and left all of Mercia wide open to be ravaged by Brida and Cnut.
- Pet the Dog: Even if it feels a whole lot like Kick the Dog. At his execution, Eadith is in the crowd and begs for him to be spared. When Sigtrygrr asks who cares enough for Eardwulf to beg for his life, Eardwulf harshly dismisses Eadith as just a whore he once knew, refusing to endanger his sister by revealing who she truly is even to try to save his own life.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Sigtryggr has him executed when he realizes he has his own agenda and doesn't want him to stab him in the back.
- Yes-Man: On the surface, anyway. He's acquired the rather unflattering nickname of 'the Arse-Licker' among Mercian nobles. Brida also calls him that and the Danes who hear it follow suit.
- Would Hit a Girl: He tries to murder Stiorra for the sake of petty revenge on Uhtred, but Sigtryggr catches him in the act, and then beats him to a pulp for it.
- Also invoked by Aethelflaed, who refuses to agree to marry her daughter to Eardwulf for fear he'd inflict the same abuse on Aelfwynn that she suffered at Aethelred's hands.
- You Have Failed Me: He narrowly avoids this fate. Aethelred threatens to have Eardwulf publicly castrated and then executed for allowing Mercia to be left completely undefended, but Aethelred is mortally wounded at Tettenhall before he can go through with it.