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The Real Reason King Edmund Was Killed In Vikings: Valhalla

Set about a century after the events of "Vikings," Netflix's "Vikings: Valhalla" has proven itself to be a worthy successor, at least when it comes keeping up with the brutality and political back-stabbing depicted in the first series. One of the spin-off's more frustrating characters is that of King Edmund (Louis Davidson), the oldest surviving heir to King Aethelred II of England (Bosco Hogan). Edmund is a character thrust into a dangerous situation in the series. After his father dies, the young man must defend his kingdom from invading Viking forces led by the Danish King Canute (Bradley Freegard). While Edmund's army proves no match for Canute's, he is kept on as a co-ruler of England after the Vikings' successful invasion in an attempt to keep the peace. 

Edmund is one of the characters who failed to survive the bloody first season of "Vikings: Valhalla," and the reasons for his death are far more complicated and integral to the series going forward than some fans may realize. While attempting to meet the occasion he finds himself in, young Edmund makes big moves, which alienate allies and enhance the target on his back. Some might see shades of Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) from "Game of Thrones" in the character, though Edmund is far less egotistical or prone to fits of violence. Like Joffrey, however, Edmund is betrayed by someone who had been close to him, and for good reason. 

King Edmund's death was necessary

King Edmund grows increasingly frustrated with his position in "Vikings: Valhalla" as he is forced to reign alongside King Canute of Denmark, a situation that feels tenuous. While King Canute keeps Edmund in place for political reasons, Edmund is clearly not in the power position, as he sees, for instance, his stepmother Emma (Laura Berlin) tying herself to the Viking invaders by marrying King Canute. 

Toward the end of Season 1, Edmund is feeling isolated and like a pawn of the Viking rulers. He turns to his advisor Godwin (David Oakes), who arranges for Edmund's noblemen to declare their true loyalty only to the young king. However, shortly after, Godwin assassinates Edmund and makes it look like a horseriding accident. Edmund's death appears to be a tragic coincidence to most outside observers.  

As to why Edmund met a relatively early demise, there are a few reasons. The first is that the real King Edmund died not long after his attempts to thwart the Viking invasion of England. As noted by historian Susan Abernethy at Medievalists.net, while the cause of his death has not been confirmed, rumors have long persisted that the young king was murdered for political reasons, which is likely where the idea for his death on the series originated from. 

When it comes to the in-show logic, Godwin's murder of Edmund not only eliminates the possibility of a destructive civil war in England between Edmund and Canute, but it also helps establish his character as a bona fide player of the game. According to series creator Jeb Stuart, Godwin's actions ingratiate him with Canute and set the stage for his character going forward. "I needed to establish him in a really Machiavellian style," Stuart said, promising Godwin is here for the "long haul" (per Games Radar).