10 facts about The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell

 How old is Bernard cornwell?

The historical novelist Bernard Cornwell was born in London on 23rd February 1944, and though the greater majority of his work concerns the historical events in the United Kingdom, he relocated to the USA in 1979 following his 2nd marriage.

the flame bearrer
the flame bearrer

Where does Bernard Cornwell live?

He continues to write from his bases in America, in Cape Cod and Charleston, having broadened his historical range as far as Elizabethan times and the American Civil War, and to also publish non-fiction works and contemporary thrillers. And he still remains as popular as ever.

Did Bernard Cornwell write Sharpe?

His own personal story is a great example of how life shapes and influences creative people and their work. He is mostly known for his series set within the Napoleonic Wars concerning the exploits of rifleman Richard Sharpe, though this is partly as this was the first of his works to be adapted for television. Following his initial reservations at Sean Bean being given the role as the eponymous hero (due to him not resembling the character he had in mind when he wrote the stories), he soon changed his mind when he saw how well Sean took to the role. The series proved extremely popular, which helped to establish the name of Bernard Cornwell as an eminent historical novelist.

Horatio hornblower and CS Forester links

The Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester was a great influence on Bernard Cornwell’s childhood and subsequent decision to begin writing. When you take into account his early life and upbringing, it is a wonder that he was allowed the pleasure of reading at all. Cornwell describes himself as a ‘war baby’, being the result of a relationship between his mother, Dorothy Cornwell, and a Canadian airman, William Oughtred. 

He was adopted by the Wiggins family from Essex, who were members of an extreme Protestant sect called the Peculiar People. They were strict pacifists who frowned upon any kind of levity or fun. As Christian Fundamentalists, novels of any kind would have been suspected as being against their principles.

Peculiar people

Cornwell’s reaction to this upbringing was to legally change his name to match his mother’s maiden name as soon as he was able (on the death of his adoptive father) and to become an atheist. These two facts speak volumes about his early life, as well as giving some insight into his interest in family history.


In a classic example of the phrase, “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.”, Bernard Cornwell saw a gap in the Hornblower series that puzzled him, so he filled it by writing his own book. The series by Forester did not cover the Duke of Wellington’s land-based campaign, and no other novelist had tackled it either. So, Cornwell launched the Sharpe series, with the success as noted above.

How did Bernard Cornwell become an author?

A career in writing, however, had not been his original intention; having failed three times to join the armed services he settled into a teaching role for a while before joining the world of journalism, working for the BBC and Thames Television. It was through his work with the BBC that he met his second wife, who was American, and eventually moved to the States.

What are The Saxon Chronicles?

Bernard Cornwell’s early life, with the issues arising from being adopted, set within him a strong sense of needing to find roots and family ties. This spurred him to seek out his biological father in Vancouver, and he finally met him in Vancouver at the age of 58. This meeting had quite a profound effect on him, as he also met siblings who proved to share many of the same interests and character traits.

Cornwell learned a great deal about his genealogy from this meeting and had long believed that most people, especially English people, had little idea about the establishment and creation of England. Having read history at University College in London, he had a wealth of historical knowledge, and so he used this to address the problem, creating the Saxon Stories.

Is the anglo saxon chronicle reliable?

The central character of the Saxon Stories, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, reflects Cornwell’s own family history. His biological father’s name, Oughtred, was an evolved form of Uhtred, a Saxon name that could be traced right back to the time of the Viking invasions in Britain.

Is Uhtred real?

Uhtred of Bebbanburg was based on a real descendent of Cornwell’s known as Uhtred the Bold. In Cornwell’s tales, Uhtred is the son of a Saxon lord who owns the fortress of Bebbanburg (now known as Bamburgh Castle). In early childhood, Uhtred is taken by Danish raiders and is raised as one of their own before he manages to escape and make his way back home. In a violent, changing world ruled by the sword, Uhtred finds himself close to the king, Alfred, and is under obligation to swear an oath to fight for him against the Danes.

Is the last kingdom historically accurate?

The stories are delivered as being told by Uhtred as an old man telling the tale of his life. Although Saxon, and baptized a Christian, his sympathies lie firmly with the Danes, whose culture and religion he prefers. He is critical of many aspects of ‘English’ life as it was then, and especially scathing in his opinion of Alfred at times. This is one of the key themes for which people praise the series; it offers a good sense of how the country was at the time. There would have been no clear idea as to who would be the victor, nor in fact who was actually in control. Uncertainty, violence, and fear reigned for years, until Alfred’s descendants managed to fulfill his vision of a united country.

When is the last saxon stories coming out?

The fact that the 13th book in the series (and the last one) is due out this year (2020) is testament to its success, as is the fact that some of the stories have been adapted for television.

Bernard Cornwell believes that historical fiction should always have a ‘big story’, being the actual history, and a ‘little story’, relating to the plot.

And this seems to have been the secret of his success.

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