Rex totius Britanniae - King of All Britain!
This was what was proclaimed on the coins of Æthelstan's reign as he was the first Saxon king to have "effective" rule all of England. Some historians consider him to be one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon kings.
Æthelstan's succession was a little muddied at first.
His father, Edward the Elder died in July 924, but although his eldest son (with first consort Ecgwynn) Æthelstan (age 30) was immediately declared the new king by Mercians, Wessex wasn't as quickly won - possibly due to the disputed nobility of Ecgwynn. They preferred Æthelstan's half-brother Ælfweard, who was the second son of Æthelstan, but the first son of his second wife, Ælfflæd. Sadly, Ælfweard died only three weeks later, clearing the way for Æthelstan's coronation... which still didn't happen until the following year in September, shortly after Wessex accepted him as the new king.
(The struggle for power is elaborated in the Wikipedia article and shows a short time of conflict within the nobility of Mercia and Wessex.)
Nonetheless, Æthelstan was finally crowned on the 4th of September, 925, by the reigning Archbishop of Canterbury, Athelm. This took place at Kingston upon Thames, (SW of London) which was then on the border of Wessex and Mercia.
During his reign, Æthelstan:
- annexed the Viking kingdom of York - with the death of allied Viking ruler, Sihtric(927)
- invaded and conquered Scotland (934)
- defeated an attempt by the Vikings and Scots to reclaim their territory, earning him the respect and admiration of mainland European rulers.(937)
He also managed to effectively rule:
- Northumbria & the North
- East Midlands
- East Anglia
- Strathclyde Britons
- Four of his half-sisters married into European royal families - including the Frank ruler and future emperor Otto.
- Brittany, Norway and Francia sent their sons to be fostered by Æthelstan.
- Sent ships to assist Louis, his nephew, make his claim to the West Francian throne.
- As an avid reader and learner, his court hosted scholars from many countries. Some of his most prized manuscripts survive to this day, having been entrusted to the Church.
Æthelstan did not marry nor have children, so his half-brother Edmund I succeeded him upon his death in Gloucester, 27th of October in 939. He chose to be entombed in Malmesbury Abbey. His bones were lost at some point, but his empty tomb remains.
After Æthelstan's death, the Vikings reclaimed York - a holding that remained until 954.
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