I wrote much of this when Kweni met her end but did not publish it then because I wanted to see what direction Michael Hirst would go with the future of her son. For me personally, Kweni’s death in some ways served as a turning point, a sign of the changes to come and the ending fates that so many of this older generation will meet. As we come to the end of a chapter or era with the death of Ragnar, I feel it only fitting to first look at those last days of Kweni and how her death would ultimately affect the future of those left behind. While we do not know where exactly Hirst will go with Kweni’s young son, his future is directly related to the events, the actions and the choices of Kweni in those last days of her life.
Our loveable but undeniably somewhat unhinged Princess Kwentirith of Mercia met a tragic but necessary end. I say necessary because I wondered for some time what her fate would be in the creative mind of Mr. Hirst. While I am so saddened at the way Kweni met her end, I personally applaud Michael Hirst for the direction he took with this woman who’s life seemed set upon such a doomed course from the beginning. I have written previously about historical reference for Kweni’s existence and the role of that actual historical figure in the life of the real Ecbert.
You can read my thoughts on the historical basis for Kweni here:
For more information on the actual history of Ecbert and his actions regarding that princess of Mercia in this article:
We have watched this tragic figure of Kweni from her early beginnings a more than slightly crazed young woman scrambling to achieve some semblance of power and control in a world dominated by men. There were times when we shook our heads at her insatiable cravings and her impulsive behaviors that we could obviously see were getting her only into more trouble.
We were made aware of her seriously troubled childhood and that past allowed us to feel some compassion for this young woman’s desperate attempts to gain back some sort of control over her life and her future. There were times when we even began to appreciate her attempts and hope for her success. Last season we saw her finally claw her way to that throne of Mercia and we wondered if there might indeed be some way for this woman, as deranged as she might be, to actually survive and win against the equally deranged and much more powerful Ecbert; Ecbert, who was willing to go so far as sacrificing his son Aethelwulf in order to win against Kweni.
What we saw this season was difficult and sad to watch because Kweni finally seemed to have a grasp on the throne of Mercia and on her sanity as well. We saw Kweni at her strongest and at her most vulnerable. I admit that when we saw Kweni become a Mother last season, I had some serious doubts about her Motherly instincts and her ability to raise a child. This season we saw that Kweni’s greatest strength and also her greatest weakness came with Motherhood. She fought like a warrior to protect her son and she became desperate enough to risk everything for his survival and future. Kweni may have suffered from the dysfunction and the insanity that ravaged her family but her last actions were those of a Mother willing to give up everything including her life to protect her child.
One of the most bittersweet parts of Kweni’s final story besides that of her fight for her son was that she finally found love and true affection as she put it, with Aethelwulf. Aethelwulf was probably the one man who could understand her behaviors that stemmed from her childhood of being raised in such an environment of others seeking control and domination by any means necessary. It was that affection that even brought Kweni a friend- probably for the first time in her life.
And, in the end it was that unlikely friendship with Judith that led to Kweni’s end. For me, that ending was by far the most painful, heart wrenching scene to watch.
I knew from the onset of Ecbert taking Kweni and her son in, and holding them as hostage that there was really not much hope for Kweni’s continued presence at this court… there were few options for her short of Ecbert himself marrying her. As in actual history, Ecbert refused to even entertain this option or idea. For Kweni that left an escape or banishment to Francia which Ecbert may have allowed eventually but that option would have been certain to not include her son. Little Magnus was far too important to Ecbert’s schemes to let him out of his grasp. The one other impediment to Kweni being allowed to leave was the fact that she was carrying Aethelwulf’s child… had she not been pregnant, Ecbert may chosen that option of banishing her. He could not afford to let her go with the possibility of her having another royal heir to use as some leverage against him. So, Kweni is held to await the birth of a child that she will never be allowed to raise… Kweni’s final days and acts of desperation set in as she realizes that she is doomed. My personal thought on her final act is that she knew she was doomed to certain death but she would take Ecbert with her as her last final revenge.
What no one expected was that Judith would have to be the one responsible for Kweni’s end. The look on both of their faces as they silently said that last goodbye to each other was heart breaking. But, as heart breaking as it was, it also held some symbolism and odd appropriateness. Kweni’s death was a given, she was doomed if by nothing else, the very fact that she was attempting to kill the King. Had she succeeded in her attempt or even been caught by anyone else, she would have been publicly arrested and executed most likely in front of everyone including her son. Instead of that fate, Kweni was killed by the one person she counted as friend. Her end came via the one person who would look into her eyes at that very end and convey some feeling of grief, of loss and guilt. Kweni’s death at the hand of Judith may possibly be the one salvation or grace for her son… Will Judith’s guilt at this killing be enough for her to offer some compassion and kindness to the child that Ecbert holds hostage for the future? I would like to believe that Judith will look after this child, Magnus and provide him with some measure of love and kindness that might not be in Ecbert’s heart or mentality. The last we hear of Magnus is that he is being raised at the court of Ecbert and that it is public knowledge that Ragnar is his Father. My worry is that without some intervention by one such as Judith would be capable of, this childhood for Magnus could be every bit as painful, dysfunctional and damaging as Kweni’s childhood was for her.
As I previously mentioned, I wrote this portion when Kweni died. Now years later, we finally see the events, the fate and the destiny begin to play out. The child, Magnus has been raised in Ecbert’s household and for all outward appearances, it seems he has been well treated by Ecbert, Aethelwulf and Judith. He has been told of his lineage as far as everyone there knows. This boy believes he is the son of Ragnar Lothbrok- he knows no different although Ecbert admits that he’s always had some doubts about this? Probably because this boy seems to lack the “Warrior” gene?
The meeting between young Magnus and Ragnar is to say the least, difficult to watch. As I mentioned, this boy truly believes that Ragnar is his Father and he looks forward to finally meeting the man he has been told so much about, even if that man is being held chained in a cage. Despite that, Magnus is proud to be a son of Ragnar…
Ragnar puts a first cut into the boy’s emotions when he adamantly denies that he is his Father.
Now, I do have to add my own thought here… this boy seems to be a bit naive and sheltered from the realities of the world that he is living in. Apparently Magnus does not appear to be aware that living in Wessex, being the son of Ragnar Lothbrok the great Viking is not necessarily a thing to be proud of or advertising? So, Ragnar may be telling the truth, or he may be lying in order to somehow protect the boy. What ever the case, it is just the first hard dose of reality the boy must suddenly face!
The next dose of reality is just as difficult to watch… Magnus seems to have some decent relationship with Aethelwulf until Aethelwulf deals him an ultimate blow of supposed betrayal? In this boy’s mind, what else can he think this action by Aethelwulf is? Granted, Aethelwulf may also be trying to save the boy’s life in the only way he thinks possible by sending him out into the world on his own now to become a man. I’m pretty certain though that at this point in his life, that is not how Magnus is viewing it. As I already mentioned, this boy seems quite naive and does not comprehend just how precarious his fate is right now. The one thing that bothered me about this action by Aethelwulf is the fact that he tells Magnus to tell people he is the son of Ragnar and that they will help him… Really, Aethelwulf, how far is this boy going to get in the middle of Wessex by admitting to anyone he meets that he is the son of Ragnar! This just seems to be setting the boy up for a certain death as he attempts to wander his way through Wessex. A far better piece of advice to the boy would have been, “Tell no one who you really are or where you come from!” Unless of course, Aethelwulf has some other plan of escape or rescue for the boy set up, this advice made no sense what so ever! Also, looking at the situation from the perspective of this boy being extremely naive and not much of a warrior type, I can not envision this boy surviving very long on his own without some sort of back up plan on Aethelwulf’s part…
Kweni risked everything to protect and save her son only for him to be cast out into the cold on his own with no understanding of why… Hopefully his fate and his destiny will not follow a similar path as his Mother’s!