King Athelstan the Glorious was born circa 895 in Wessex to Edward the Elder (c870-924) and Ecgwynn (c875-) and died 27 October 929 Gloucestershire, England of unspecified causes. Alfred the Great (849-899).


Æthelstan, Rex totius Britanniae, (King of all Britain). Reign: 924-939

  • 924: Proclaimed King of Mercia
  • 925: Crowned King of Wessex
  • 927: Takes control of Northumbria

Æthelstan or Athelstan, King of the Anglo-Saxons (Old English: Æþelstan, Æðelstān, meaning "noble stone"), was the eldest son of King Edward the Elder and his first wife, Ecgwynn (c875-). Modern historians regard him as the first King of England and one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon kings. He never married, and was succeeded by his half-brother, Edmund.

House of Wessex

Golden Wyvern of Wessex

He was of the royal English dynasty called House of Wessex, a family originating in the southwest corner of England and gradually increased in power and prestiege. The House became rulers of all the country with the reign of Alfred the Great in 871 and lasting until Edmund Ironside in 1016. This period of the English monarchy is known as the Saxon period.

Reign of Athelstan

When Edward died in July 924, Æthelstan was accepted by the Mercians as king. His half-brother Ælfweard may have been recognised as king in Wessex, but died within weeks of their father's death. Æthelstan still encountered resistance in Wessex for several months, and was not crowned until September 925. In 927 he conquered the last remaining Viking kingdom, York, making him the first Anglo-Saxon ruler of the whole of England. In 934 he invaded Scotland and forced Constantine II to submit to him, but Æthelstan's rule was resented by the Scots and Vikings, and in 937 they invaded England. Æthelstan defeated them at the Battle of Brunanburh, a victory which gave him great prestige both in the British Isles and on the Continent. After his death in 939 the Vikings seized back control of York, and it was not finally reconquered until 954.

Æthelstan centralised government; he increased control over the production of charters and summoned leading figures from distant areas to his councils. These meetings were also attended by rulers from outside his territory, especially Welsh kings, who thus acknowledged his overlordship. More legal texts survive from his reign than from any other tenth-century English king. They show his concern about widespread robberies, and the threat they posed to social order. His legal reforms built on those of his grandfather, Alfred the Great. Æthelstan was one of the most pious West Saxon kings, and was known for collecting relics and founding churches. His household was the centre of English learning during his reign, and it laid the foundation for the Benedictine monastic reform later in the century. No other West Saxon king played as important a role in European politics as Æthelstan, and he arranged the marriages of several of his sisters to continental rulers.


Æthelstan died at Gloucester on 27 October 939. His grandfather Alfred, his father Edward, and his half-brother Ælfweard had been buried at Winchester, but Æthelstan chose not to honour the city associated with opposition to his rule. By his own wish he was buried at Malmesbury Abbey, where he had buried his cousins who died at Brunanburh. No other member of the West Saxon royal family was buried there, and according to William of Malmesbury, Æthelstan's choice reflected his devotion to the abbey and to the memory of its seventh-century abbot, Saint Aldhelm. William described Æthelstan as fair-haired "as I have seen for myself in his remains, beautifully intertwined with gold threads". His bones were lost during the Reformation, but he is commemorated by an empty fifteenth-century tomb




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