The Anglo-Saxons. 3: Athelstan - first king of England?

Athelstan is often referred to as the first true king of all England.

Drama: Athelstan - first king of England?

3. Athelstan - first king of England?

Not much is known for certain about the early life of Athelstan. There is a story that his grandfather - Alfred the Great - favoured Athelstan at court and made him a gift of a cloak and sword. It is also believed the Athelstan spent part of his youth in the kingdom of Mercia, which was ruled by Queen Ethelfleda (869? - 918), learning the skills of a young prince.

In 937 Athelstan's kingdom, which combined both Wessex and Mercia, came under attack from a combined force of Scots, Irish and Vikings. Athelstan won a decisive victory at the Battle of Brunanburgh - one of the bloodiest battles in English history. Thereafter Athelstan focused on building the strength of the kingdom.

For many historians Athelstan is the first ruler who can truly be regarded as 'king of all England'.



More from this series

2. Alfred the Great
4. Beowulf - Part one
5. Beowulf - Part two