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Was King Aethelstan really gay? Seven Kings Must Die writer explains

She told that there is "some evidence" to suggest that Aethelstan could have been gay, which is why the plot point was included in Bernard Cornwell's books (known collectively as The Saxon Stories).

"All of that period is hard to research [but] there is definitely a reasonable amount of debate about it. It's not something we've made up for TV – not at all," she explained.

The screenwriter went on to acknowledge that including diversity in a period drama can prove controversial, as was also the case when Father Benedict (Patrick Robinson) was introduced in season 5.

In an interview with Sharon Kay Penman in 2020, The Last Kingdom author Bernard Cornwell explained his initial inspiration for making Aethelstan a gay character.

He explained: "History records that he never married, which is unusual in a king because of the desire to leave an heir, and also that he liked to decorate his hair with golden ringlets, and on that small evidence I decided he might have been gay.

"[It's] a choice that hasn’t pleased all my readers, but I was happy with it."