Following the success of sprawling Sky Atlantic drama Game of Thrones, the BBC have commissioned a series which will follow the rise and fall of warring factions in Medieval England.

Eight-part series The Last Kingdom will hit our screens next year and despite the show’s production company Carnival – the same people who bring us Downton Abbey – playing down comparisons with Game of Thrones, the similarities are there for all to see.

Based on Sharpe author Bernard Cornwell’s best-selling series of ‘Saxon stories’, the drama is set in England in the year 872. King Alfred sits on the throne, but the separate kingdoms of what we now know as England have fallen to the invading Vikings and the great kingdom of Wessex has been left standing alone and defiant.

George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones novels are completely fictional – despite being inspired by England’s 15th century Wars of the Roses – but The Last Kingdom will be a mix of fact and fiction.

The hero of the piece is Uhtred, the son of a Saxon nobleman who is orphaned by the Vikings and then kidnapped and raised as one of their own.

Forced to choose between the country of his birth and the people of his upbringing, Uhtred treads a dangerous path between Saxon and Viking as he seeks to recapture his ancestral lands.

Gareth Neame, executive producer, who won Golden Globe and Emmy awards for Downton Abbey, said: “This is not Game of Thrones – brilliant though that show is, ours is a historical drama based on the real events around the time of King Alfred the Great and the foundation of England.

“How England was once a group of separate smaller Kingdoms and how its inhabitants the Anglo-Saxons forced out their Viking invaders and came together for the first time as a single entity called England.

“Cornwell’s Saxon novels combine historical figures and events with fiction in an utterly compelling way. In the hands of Stephen Butchard  (screenwriter), we believe it will make original and engrossing television drama. 

“In part the epic quest of our hero Uhtred, it is also a fascinating re-telling of the tale of King Alfred the Great and how he united the many separate kingdoms on this island into what would become England.”

Shooting begins this autumn and the BBC are hoping the show becomes a long-running drama like Game of Thrones, which was recently renewed for a fifth and sixth series after receiving record audiences for its recent fourth series.