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Actors join Royal and Historians in tribute to Aethelflaed
Royalty spanning more than a thousand years made a special visit to the ancient Anglo-Saxon town of Tamworth in Staffordshire to help commemorate a vital figure in its history. The event, on June 12, was the 1100th anniversary of the death of the Lady of the Mercians, Aethelflaed, the daughter of King Alfred the Great, who earned the title of 'warrior queen' for helping to drive the Vikings out of what was then the ancient kingdom of Mercia. And, to help celebrate the milestone, Tamworth played host to the Earl of Wessex, HRH Prince Edward, as well as King Alfred - or, at least, the actor David Dawson who played him in television series The Last Kingdom about the Viking occupation of Anglo-Saxon England. David was one of a number of actors from The Last Kingdom, the third series of which will be released on Netflix later this year, to join HRH Prince Edward at the commemoration service within historic St Editha's Church in Tamworth town centre. The other cast members were Eliza Butterworth, who plays King Alfred's wife Aelswith, Millie Brady who plays Aethelflaed, and Timothy Innes who portrays Alfred's son Edward.
The Last Kingdom cast members, David Dawson, Millie Brady, Eliza Butterworth and Timothy Innes inside St Editha's Church in Tamworth
The congregation at St Editha's Church, which Aethelflaed rebuilt and worshipped in, also included hundreds of civic dignitaries, historians, and clergy. 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 9th century prayer book, thought to have been given to a Nunnaminster, or Saxon royal monastery, by Aethelflaed's mother Queen Aelswith. The service also saw the unveiling and dedication of a new stained glass window of Aethelflaed, which was donated to St Editha's Church by David Biggs, chairman of Tamworth and District Civic Society, and his sister, Susan Biggs, in memory of their parents.
The actors pose in front of the Victorian stone statue of Aethelflaed outside Tamworth Castle
As well as attending the church service, the actors from The Last Kingdom also visited Tamworth's new Aethelflaed statue on the roundabout outside Tamworth Railway Station, and the old stone statue in Tamworth Castle Grounds during which they enjoyed a tour of Tamworth Castle. David Dawson 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. He said: "To be here in Tamworth 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." Millie added: "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."
Members of The Last Kingdom cast meet Olivia Shepherd from Tamworth Castle who has been portraying Aethelflaed in the town
David Biggs said: "It was logistically very difficult to organise an event for well over 500 VIPs attending from all over the British Isles, and fit them all into the church, albeit the largest in Staffordshire. Guests have said that the Civic Society has done Tamworth and Aethelflaed proud with this commemoration and royal visit. We have raised the national profile of both the town and our Lady of the Mercians in a very positive and constructive way. Aethelflaed is the 'founding mother of England' and as Tamworth was her favoured seat and power base after she rebuilt the town and church in 913, and the place where she died on June 12, 918, it is only right that Tamworth should lead the way in commemorating and honouring this iconic warrior queen, without whom Tamworth and England would not exist."