So in previous posts I’ve reviewed Season 1 of The Last Kingdom – an adaption of Bernard Cornwell’s novels about Uhtred son of Uhtred and his adventures in late 9th-century Britain.

I’ve now completed watching Season 2, and there is actually far more of archaeological interest than Season 1.

Now, I do confess, there remains much that drives me mad. The material culture is infuriating in many regards, such as the ridiculous miniature helmets that make no freaking sense whatsoever. Just look at Clappa’s helmet, for example. Why?

The random fur shoulder-pads symbolise ‘Danes’ in the show and cannot be forgiven. Not because we know for sure they didn’t have them, but for the simple fact they look shit.

The architecture and settings are also implausible in multiple regards, both in general terms and in relation to specific known historical places. Let’s take Durham for example, which looks more like Weathertop meets a German schloss. I can’t say it didn’t look like that in the 9th century for sure, but I know it certainly wasn’t perched on a pinnacle like this! You know why? I’ve been to Durham!

Still, the story is better, the acting good. And to my mind, the ships are the best bit, and the estuary scenes.

What Season 2 brings that Season 1 lacks are key attempts, inspired by Cornwell’s novel, to tackle specific famous and surviving material cultures from the Anglo-Saxon period, as well as surviving traces of the Roman past in more detail (although see the discussion of Alfred’s sceptre from Season 1 here.

These are tantamount to shameless ‘product placements’ by the British Museum and Ashmoelan Museum, although of course I’m not accusing them of anything! Let’s start with the first example: the Fuller Brooch.

The Fuller Brooch

It appears in all the academic texts and popular books about England in the 9th century. Yes, its the silver-plate ‘Fuller Brooch’ is a masterpiece of 9th-century art.

The silver ornament is picked out in niello. It denotes the 5 senses: sight at the centre, taste to the top-left, smell to the top-right, hearing to the bottom-left, and touch to the bottom-right. Around the senses are 16 medallions with vegetation, animals and birds.

You can see it at the British Museum where it has a prominent place in the medieval gallery.

King Alfred is shown wearing this same brooch in Season 2. Not only that, it is specifically shown as bigger and better than any other brooch worn by other noblemen and royalty. Furthermore, the brooch is shown functioning to attach a cloak. More than this still, it is shown worn by Alfred riding with his army into battle over a mail shirt.

Does it look good?! Yes it bloody-well does!

Is it a brooch ‘fit for a king?’. Unquestionably.

Does this make sense as martial gear? Not fully.

Still, by making Alfred himself wear this brooch, the show marries key artefacts in the British Museum to the storyline, validating and historicising the link between fact and fiction. It also glorifies our paltry surviving set of 9th-century artefacts, affording them a centrality than they probably ever had….

But that’s not all. It gets crazier! Let’s move to the hall of Aethelraed of Mercia and his new wife Aethelflaed. And we find that they’ve gone bat-shit crazy for the Fuller brooch. More than bat-shit: elephant-shit mad for it! They haven’t replicated it, they’ve depicted it as a series of huge shield-size mega-Fullers fixed to the parapet of the first-floor eating area. Not only that, they have a Fuller tapestry hanging behind them, like the Franks Casket tapestry in Ivanhoe! Talk about losing the plot!

“Have you eaten too much, my dear wife?”

“Well, I’m feeling Fuller”…

Fuller brooch2