ACTORS from TV’s The Last Kingdom were among the hundreds of civic dignitaries, historians, clergy and member of the royal family who came together in Tamworth to mark the 1100th anniversary of the death of one of the most influential people in the town’s history.
The congregation at St Editha’s Church paid tribute to Lady of the Mercians, Aethelflaed, in the church she rebuilt, worshipped in and where her death would have been mourned exactly 1,100 years ago to the day.
Guests at the service on June 12 included the current Earl of Wessex, HRH Prince Edward who is a descendant of Aethelflaed, and the actors who play Aethelflaed and her family in the popular TV drama The Last Kingdom.
Tamworth Informed did want to record the prestigious event on video for the people of Tamworth and future generations to see. Prior to the event, we spoke to the church and the press team at Buckingham Palace but were directed to the Tamworth and District Civic Society for the decision to be made. Unfortunately, Tamworth and District Civil Society ignored our requests and would not allow us to attend the service.
The visiting cast were David Dawson, who plays King Alfred, Eliza Butterworth who plays his wife Aelswith, Timothy Innes who portrays their son Edward and Millie Brady who plays Aethelflaed.
As well as attending the church service, the actors visited Tamworth’s new Aethelflaed statue on the roundabout outside Tamworth Railway Station, the old stone statue in the Castle Grounds and enjoyed a tour of Tamworth Castle.
The cast have just finished filming the third series of The Last Kingdom, which will be released on Netflix later this year, and have been researching the history of the characters they play.
David said they felt it was fitting to attend the service in Tamworth as a ‘nod’ to Aetheflaed and the important role she played in the making of England.
“To be here in Tamworth today is really special, because Aethelflaed was instrumental in making King Alfred’s dream and vision of a united England come true.
“Her contribution, hard work, determination and fierce intelligence laid the foundations for an England that we may never have had otherwise,” he said while being filmed at St Editha’s for BBC Midlands Today.
Millie said: “Doing the show and having this huge chapter of history opened up is amazing and coming here and hearing more about the history of Aethelflaed is really fascinating.”
Eliza said “I really enjoyed the service – it was incredible to be a part of such an important historical celebration, and we have all learned new and interesting information about our characters.”
The group was also impressed with the new Aethelflaed statue created by artist Luke Perry, describing it as a ‘fabulous modern interpretation’ and said they enjoyed their visit to Tamworth, which was Aethelflaed’s main seat of power as the capital of the ancient kingdom of Mercia.
Organised by Tamworth and District Civic Society, the commemorative service included acclamations and prayers by Archdeacons and Bishops from Aethelflaed’s Mercian towns, readings from authors, historians and HRH Prince Edward, plus a selection of fitting songs and hymns.
Among the readings, TV historian Michael Wood recited a ‘Mercian Royal Woman’s Prayer’ from a ninth century prayer book, thought to have been given to a Nunnaminster in Winchester by Aethelflaed’s mother Queen Aelswith, professor Judith Jesch read extracts from the Mercian Register in Old English and historian Dame Jinty Nelson delivered a keynote address.
Cllr John Chesworth, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Culture and Operational Services, said: “The Civic Society did a great job organising the service yesterday and we were delighted also to welcome the cast from The Last Kingdom to Tamworth, as well as the hundreds of dignitaries in attendance.
“The fact the event attracted so many people from across the country shows just how significant this part of our history is, as well as the role of Aethelflaed, who is gradually beginning to get the true recognition she deserves. This is also great news for Tamworth as the Aethelflaed story, and Tamworth’s part in it, is now being highlighted on a national stage and will hopefully encourage more people to visit and explore the rich heritage of our great historic town.”