‘Vikings: Valhalla’ Season 3: 5 facts Netflix show gets wrong about King Edmund

Contains spoilers for “Vikings: Valhalla”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: In “Vikings: Valhalla” historical accuracy often takes a back seat to creative storytelling, especially evident in its portrayal of figures such as King Edmund II (Louis Davison), known as Edmund Ironside.

While the series captures the essence of Edmund’s short reign following the death of his father in 1016 and his subsequent demise after seven months, it deviates significantly from historical records.

Here are five notable mistakes the series makes about King Edmund, illuminating how “Vikings: Valhalla” blends history with fiction to engage its audience.

King Edmund in “Vikings: Valhalla”: fact vs fiction

King Edumnd II in a still from the show
King Edmund II in a still from the show “Vikings: Valhalla” (@netflix)

In “Vikings: Valhalla,” the portrayal of King Edmund II as a young and inexperienced ruler contrasts with historical evidence. While the series portrays him as a “boy king”, historical records indicate otherwise. Edmund was probably born around the same time as King Canute the Great, making them contemporaries rather than Canute being significantly younger.

This challenges the narrative convenience used in the show to present Edmund as youthful and inexperienced. By the end of 1015, Edmund had already married Ealdgyth and fathered Edward the Exile and Edmund Ætheling.

Despite his youth, Edmund was thrust into leadership and faced significant challenges, including Viking invasions led by Canute. His short reign ended tragically in 1016, leading to Canute’s ascension to the English throne and subsequent actions against Edmund’s family.

The true story of Edmund II in “Vikings: Valhalla”

King Edumnd II in a still from the show
King Edmund II in a still from the show “Vikings: Valhalla” (@netflix)

In “Vikings: Valhalla”, the portrayal of King Edmund II deviates significantly from historical records, reflecting the series’ approach to mixing fact with fiction. While the show accurately presents Edmund ascending to the English throne in 1016 after the death of his father Æthelred II, it takes artistic liberties with his character and interactions.

The series portrays Edmund’s relationship with his father as tender and supportive, contrasting with historical accounts of strained relationships. Scenes showing Edmund praying at Æthelred’s bedside and assuming a posture of mourning are created for emotional effect but lack historical basis.

In reality, Edmund’s defiance of his father’s orders and his marriage to Ealdgyth, a politically charged move, indicate a more complex and contentious dynamic between father and son.

Historical errors in “Vikings: Valhalla” in the case of King Edmund

King Edumnd II in a still from the show
King Edmund II in a still from the show “Vikings: Valhalla” (@netflix)

In “Vikings: Valhalla,” historical events surrounding the reign of King Edmund II are significantly condensed and altered for dramatic effect. While the series portrays Canute’s invasion of England as a direct response to Æthelred’s involvement in the Saint Brice Day Massacre in 1002, historical timelines diverge.

The massacre took place in 1002, but Canute’s conquest of England and Edmund’s death in 1016 were separated by 14 years, presenting a compressed and simplified story for telling.

Another notable deviation is the portrayal of Sweyn Forkbeard in Season 1, Episode 7 (“Elections”), where he interacts with characters despite historically dying in February 1014, almost three years before Edmund’s death in November 1016.

Breaking down the portrayal of Edmund in “Vikings: Valhalla”

King Edumnd II in a still from the show
King Edmund II in a still from the show “Vikings: Valhalla” (@netflix)

In “Vikings: Valhalla”, King Edmund II is portrayed with a different characterization than historical records suggest. The series portrays him as cocky and inexperienced, showing his struggles in battle and diplomacy, especially in Season 1, Episode 3 and Episode 4.

These portrayals highlight his flaws and mistakes, leading to failures such as at the Battle of Assandun. Contrary to this portrayal, historical reports praise Edmond for his bravery and military skill, earning him the epithet “Iron side”.

Known for his leadership in battles against Viking invaders, Edmund led his forces in several engagements, including those against Canute the Great’s father, Sweyn Forkbeard. Despite his defeat at Assandun in 1016, Edmund’s courage and determination in defending England against Viking interventions remains his lasting legacy in history.

The fictionalized death of King Edmund II

King Edumnd II in a still from the show
King Edmund II in a still from the show “Vikings: Valhalla” (@netflix)

In “Vikings: Valhalla”, the depiction of the death of King Edmund II deviates significantly from historical accounts, opting for a more dramatic story. The series portrays Edmund’s demise as a secret assassination attempt by Count Godwin, a scenario not supported by historical evidence.

In reality, the exact circumstances of Edmund’s death in November 1016, at the age of approximately 25 or 26, remain unclear and obscured by time. Historical speculation suggests that Edmund may have succumbed to wounds sustained in battle shortly after the Battle of Assandun, a plausible scenario given the timing.

However, more colorful legends offer alternative theories, including an attacker attacking Edmund while he was on the toilet, similar to the fate of Tywin Lannister in “Game of Thrones”. Those legends, although intriguing, lack reliable confirmation and are considered more fantastic than factual in historical discourse.

“Vikings: Valhalla” utilizes such legends and creative liberties to create a compelling story around Edmund’s death, balancing historical inspiration with dramatic storytelling for modern audiences.

“Vikings: Valhalla” trailer.

“Vikings: Valhalla” Season 1 and 2 are available for streaming on Netflix

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