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Why Aelswith From The Last Kingdom Looks So Familiar

Contains spoilers for The Last Kingdom season 4

Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon) has once again ridden to the rescue of Wessex on season 4 of Netflix's historical drama, The Last Kingdomthis time without the uneasy support of King Alfred the Great (David Dawson). Per the events of season 3, Alfred's son Edward has succeeded his father (Timothy Innes) to the throne of Wessex and reluctantly taken up the generational struggle against the invading Danish horde. This major changing of the guard has focused the spotlight on a fresh cast of Saxon heroes and villains, including disgraced Mercian siblings Eardwulf (Jamie Blackley) and Eadith (Stefanie Martini) and the scheming West Saxon ealdorman Aethelhelm (Adrian Schiller). The death of Alfred has also thrown the existing royal apparatus at Winchester into disarray. Several West Saxons that were previously among Alfred's most trusted now find themselves out of favor with the young king, including the former king's consort, Aelswith.

Aelswith was a bit of a one-note character up until season 4, defined principally by her self-righteous piety, which yielded an abiding hatred of Uhtred. The succession at Winchester gave the character the opportunity to reveal unseen depth, even forcing her into an uneasy alliance with her pagan nemesis. It was a refreshing shift for a character that more-or-less fades out of focus after Alfred's death in the series' source material. Bernard Cornwell, who authored the Saxon Stories series of historical novels on which The Last Kingdom is based, never gave Aelswith the same opportunity to show her heroic side. As far as diversions from the book series go, it's a welcome one.

The puritanical Aelswith is played by the young English actress Eliza Butterworth, and if she looks familiar, you're probably a fan of the BBC.

Eliza Butterworth likes doing BBC shows with acronyms in their titles

Fans of The Last Kingdom will probably be surprised to learn that Butterworth is only 27 years old. She brings a weight suggestive of a much more mature talent to the part of Aelswith, consort to the King of Wessex. It's exciting that the changes at Winchester this season allowed Butterworth to show her range by depicting a character with more complicated motivations than just hating pagans.

Although her career is still in its infancy, the young actress has already made a splash on British television, appearing on two popular series for the BBC. Butterworth got her acting start playing Lucy Hamilton on a single episode of WPC 56 in 2015 (via IMDb). That 1950s historical drama ran for three seasons, and told the story of the first female constable to join the West Midlands police during the 1950s. After WPC 56, Butterworth did another single-episode stint on the murder mystery series DCI Banks. It wasn't until the first season of The Last Kingdom began casting that Butterworth landed her first chance to join a TV series as a regular.

At the time Butterworth was cast as Aelswith, the BBC was still involved with The Last Kingdom (Netflix took over the reigns after season 2). It seems likely that this introduction to the American audience will lead to more exciting roles in the future. We can certainly look forward to her likely return for The Last Kingdom season 5.