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I would sup with the devil if he would show me how to achieve my earthly goals.

–King Ecbert

King Ecbert was the worldly and ambitious King of Wessex and Mercia, whose formative years were spent in the court of the Emperor Charlemagne. An ambitious and open-minded man of strength, knowledge and the willingness to use those qualities decisively. He had developed a strong respect for his new foe/ally Ragnar Lothbrok.

Biography

Season 2

Having saved Athelstan from a cross - the monk having been crucified for apostasy - Ecbert regards Athelstan as a kindred spirit, and one versed in Latin. The king puts the monk in charge of his treasury of ancient Roman relics and documents left over from Rome's domination of Britain centuries prior. Athelstan is tasked with interpreting and preserving the many scrolls of Roman parchment. From the scrolls, Athelstan conveys to Ecbert detailed accounts of the battlefield strategies of the Roman legions.

Having delved into the military mind of Caesar, King Ecbert puts his new knowledge to use when confronting the latest incursion - the largest to date - by Ragnar Lothbrok into Wessex, this raid including the forces of King Horik and Lagertha. Allied with King Aelle of Northumbria, Ecbert ambushes the advancing Viking horde with a multiple-pronged attack that includes both mounted cavalry and infantry. Confounded by Ecbert's tactics, taking heavy losses, and assailed from all sides, the Vikings are forced to fight their way out of the trap and into headlong retreat. King Ecbert's victory is decisive. In the aftermath of the battle, King Aelle expresses surprise at Ecbert's skill as a tactician.

When Aelle suggests finishing off the Northmen, however, Ecbert demonstrates his keener political vision, responding that more might be gained by negotiating a truce. Additionally, upon realizing that Ragnar's brother, Rollo, had been wounded and captured during the battle, Ecbert had his life spared and his wounds tended to. Rollo, he realized, was an important and potentially useful captive. Rollo's release is part of the deal later struck between Ecbert and Ragnar that granted the Northmen 5,000 acres of good farming land, as well as a quantity of gold and silver. King Ecbert, in turn, is able to recruit a contingent of Viking warriors willing to fight as mercenaries for Princess Kwenthrith in her campaign to rule the kingdom of Mercia.

Season 3

When the vikings return to England, they sup with King Ecbert with whom they are now amicable. Ecbert takes this opportunity to elaborate on the conditions of their deal. He tells the vikings that they must now fight to return Kwenthrith to the throne of Mercia as a show of good faith. But Ecbert doesn't want to share his lands with the Vikings, orders to Aethelwulf to kill them all.

Season 4

When Queen Kwenthrith is victim of a Rebellion, Ecbert sends his son to protect her and to promise to help her to regain her kingdom. When Kwenthrith learns that Ecbert wants to take over the Mercia to himself, she kills, Waerferth, one of his men and tries to kill him, but dies because of Judith. Ecbert betrays King Aelle, his ally, as becoming the King of Mercia. Later, Aethelwulf warns him that Ragnar has returned. He assures his son, as well as Judith, that Ragnar is just one man. When Ecbert learns that Ragnar is captured, he returns at his castle. He is furious against his son seeing Ragnar in a dungeon. Ragnar is placed in the big room and him and Ecbert share a moment. Initially Ragnar is still in his cage but Ecbert frees him, he thinks that Ragnar will kill him but Ragnar demands him to kill him. Ecbert refuses, then they speak faults committed by each other. We see the respect and admiration that Ragnar and Ecbert have one for the other, during their exchange, and mostly Athelstan miss them.

Ragnar demands to Ecbert to kill him but he refuses again. Finally, Ecbert learns that Ragnar's strategy is to be killed then his son would come to  avenge him. He wants to be delivered to King Aelle and  blame him for his death. Ragnar promises that his sons will not attack Wessex. Ecbert accepts and promises to Ragnar to spare Ivar. After Ragnar's death by hands of King Aelle, Ecbert loses reason and the volonty to live. At the end of Season Four, he demands to his son to fight the Great Heathen Army of Ragnar's sons but Aethelwulf's army is defeated. However, King Ecbert had a plan and demands Bishop Edmund to crown Aethelwulf as new King of Wessex and Mercia. He stays with Edmund when the city is evacuated, where he plans to trick the vikings into a false sense of security. By making a deal with Bjorn and giving lands to the vikings (which he is not legally able to do since he isn't king anymore), King Ecbert hopes to stall the Vikings long enough for his family and people to evacuate, forcing the vikings to retreat and protect the lands they believe to be theirs by "legal" right. In exchange for this, King Ecbert request that he chooses his own death, thereby stealing the satisfaction of his death from the avenging brothers. Edmund is killed by Hvitserk and after having left lands on Ragnar's sons, Ecbert commits a suicide in his bath once that Ragnar's sons have accepted the choice of his death.

Beliefs

Unlike many of his fellow Christians in Wessex, Ecbert possesses an understanding of a pagan culture like the Vikings, mainly as a result of his fascination with the Romans and their world-view prior to their Christianization. Ecbert appreciates that the Roman gods allowed them rule the world and grasps the implications of that notion. He takes Athelstan into his confidence, sensing that men like his son, the devout Prince [[Aethelwulf]], and his advisor, the Bishop [[Edmund]], would disapprove of his interest in pagan religions and culture.

Ecbert however is not at all a religious or God-fearing person. Praying alone in a church he is shown speaking to God that he has no fear of going to hell or sacrifice everyone else close to him to achieve his goals.

Personality

King Ecbert poses as a friendly, understanding and trustworthy character. While in truth, it is to hide his true ambitious, selfish, hypocrite and unscrupulous personality. Ecbert cares about almost no one and is willing to sacrifice everyone else including his son Aethelwulf and others close to him to achieve his goals. He shows no regret about ordering the massacre of the Norse settlement after having helped Lagertha build it nor shows respect for his fellow kings like Aelle and Kwenthrith behind their backs as he plans to overthrow both of them to became Bretwalda (ruler of Britain). During a conversation with Aethelwulf he explains he has no true friends and that is better this way. Lagertha is the first to notice his selfish, ambitious personality after their time together. Aethelwulf also notices he was willing to sacrifice him besides Ecbert denying it. King Aelle is aware of his ambitions, after he takes control of Mercia and is in a relationship with Judith, Aelle confronts him and his answer is "Get used to it". Kwenthrith becomes enraged after discovering he has overthrown her, and asks how he can sleep at night, in an anger that culminates into her attempting to kill him, which promptly leads to her own death.

However Ecbert shows a truly kind and caring side with Athelstan. To the point of saving him and giving him a place in his court and more importantly, his trust. To translate and deal with the Roman texts. Ecbert, like Ragnar, wants Athelstan close by and asks him to remain in Wessex. Even unbeknownst to him that Athelstan is dead, Ecbert thinks about him and treats his son Alfred as his own grandson. Ecbert, like Ragnar, receives a vision of Athelstan. And is hinted that Ecbert believes him to be a saint. Ecbert also mentions that after he lost his first wife he swore to never marry again, hinting her loss had a deep impact on him probably turning him what he is.

Nevertheless, his excessive personality had not demised his status as a great King. Under his reign, Wessex grew powerful and came to incorporate the powerful Kingdom of Mercia under their yoke. His masterful tactics as a warrior led to King Ecbert expelling the Vikings from his lands for a time being with the aid of a standing army of well-trained warriors. It is because of his qualities as a ruthless yet great ruler which prompted Wigstan to crown him King of Mercia, for he sees within Ecbert a man who will ensure the end of Mercia's civil war and bring about order and prosperity under his reign.

Trivia

  • The name Ecbert means "bright edge" from the Old English elements ecg "edge of a sword" and beorht "bright". 
  • Ecbert had no surname, Ealhmund was just the name of his father, King Ealhmund of Kent. 
  • Ecbert's name was alternately spelled as Egbert, Ecgbert, Ecgberht or Ecgbriht.
  • There is a school in Sheffield, England named after King Ecbert (King Ecgbert school) which originally sat on 2 sites named Wessex and Mercia.
  • King Ecbert of Wessex was a decendant of Cerdic I, a Saxon conquerer that founded Wessex. According to legend, and also asserted in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Cerdic was a decendant of Wōden, the Anglo-Saxon name of Odin. Although the same Anglo-Saxon Chronicle also traces the pedigree of the House of Wessex to the Biblical Patriarchs, and so may be an example of a fabricated lineage.
  • Ecbert was named as the Bretwalda (ruler of Britain) in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle after he conquered the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia from King Wiglaf and received homage from the Northumbrians.
  • Though the series depicts Ecbert as king of Wessex in the approximate year 800 AD, Ecbert was not crowned until 802 AD.
  • In the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" created during the reign of Alfred the Great, King Ecgbert of Wessex was said to have had three children with his wife Redburga; Æthelwulf, Saint Eadgyth of Polesworth, and Æthelstan. Later historians decided that Æthelstan was Æthelwulf's oldest son, rather than his brother.
  • In 825 AD, King Ecbert accepted the submission of King Sigered of Essex (the East Saxons) and annexed the entire kingdom (composed of the modern English counties of Essex, Hertfordshire and Middlesex), adding them to the growing Kingdom of Wessex. This was in the same year that Ecbert had reconquered the Kingdom of Kent, which he had one been the heir to before his father, Ealhmund, was killed by his Mercian rivals in 784 AD.
  • Ecbert was the grandfather of King Alfred the Great, who led the native English resistance against the Danes after they conquered the kingdoms of Northumbria, East Anglia and northern Mercia.
  • Ecbert and his fellow king, Aella of Northumbria, never met in real life and were not even comtemporaries. Ecbert reigned from 802-839 AD, while Aella is believed to have died around the year 867 AD and was only king of Northumbria for several years at that. The real-life contemporary king of Northumbria for Ecbert of Wessex in the year 800 AD (the setting of Season 2) would have been King Eardwulf (reigned 796-806 AD).
  • Ecbert's father was King Ealhmund of Kent, who was himself the great-grandson of one Ingild, a brother of King Ine of Wessex (reigned 688-726 AD). Ecbert, heir to the throne of Kent and possessing a claim to the throne of Wessex, was forced into exile to Francia after the death of his father. His rival, Beorhtric, gained the support of the powerful King Offa of Mercia to seize the throne of Wessex in 786 AD, while Mercia asserted it's dominion over Kent. Ecbert would eventually be restored as King over Wessex and Kent with the aid from the Frankish Emperor Charlemagne.
  • Vikings creator talks about that big finale death.[1]

Appearances

Season two appearances
Brother's War Invasion Treachery Eye For an Eye Answers in Blood
Unforgiven Blood Eagle Boneless The Choice The Lord's Prayer
Season three appearances
Mercenary The Wanderer Warrior's Fate Scarred The Usurper
Born Again Paris To the Gates! Breaking Point The Dead
Season four appearances
A Good Treason Kill the Queen Mercy Yol Promised
What Might Have Been The Profit and the Loss Portage Death All 'Round The Last Ship
The Outsider The Vision Two Journeys In the Uncertain Hour Before the Morning All His Angels
Crossings The Great Army Revenge On the Eve The Reckoning

References