This Union: The Ghost Kingdoms of England

This is an excellent series on BBC4 about the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that eventually evolved to fill the vacuum left by departure of the Roman legions.

In the first episode, Ian Hislop visits East Anglia, particularly Colchester, Ipswich and Sutton Hoo, viewing some coins with Philip Wise and hearing about the Wuffingas, apparently descended from a wolf, who included the great Raedwald.

Subsequent episodes, to which Marc Morris is a regular contributor, as are Janina Ramirez and Gareth Williams, the numismatist of the British Museum, are about Northumbria, (featuring the Jarrow and Wearmouth monasteries, stone and stained glass, Viking raids on Lindisfarne, Bede and his writings along with kings such as Oswald and Ealdrith) Mercia (monarchs including Penda, Aethelbald, Offa who corresponded with Charlemagne, and Aethelflead, St. Boniface, rich agricultural land and a border with Wales) and Wessex (Alfred, his gastric problems, the battle of Athelney and his struggles against the Danes, converting Guthrum and supplanting the other kingdoms, fortifying towns such as Winchester, his administrative and taxation reforms, his son and grandson eventually uniting England). The “Alfred Jewel” , discovered in 1693, was discussed, as was Thomas Arne’s great work featuring “Rule Britannia” and the likes of St. Dunstan, St. Athelwald and St. Eadwald, who may have inspired the Cerne Abbas Giant.

The chief defect is that a series about a Heptarchy has only four programmes and that the kingdoms of Kent, Essex and Sussex are not really discussed. Is there scope for three more episodes?


By super blue

Grandson of a Town player.

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