Saturday, September 17, 2005

Athelstan (c.895 - 939)

Athelstan was the first king of all England and Alfred the Great's grandson. He reigned between 925 and 939. A distinguished and courageous soldier who pushed the boundaries of the kingdom to their furthest extent yet. In 927 he took York from the Danes and forced the submission of King Constantine of Scotland and of the northern kings. All five of the Welsh kings agreed to pay a huge annual tribute. He also eliminated opposition in Cornwall. In 937, at the battle of Brunanburh, Athelstan led a force drawn from Britain and defeated an invasion made by the king of Scotland in alliance with the Welsh and Danes from Dublin.
Under Athelstan, law codes strengthened royal control over his large kingdom; currency was regulated to control silver's weight and to penalise fraudsters; buying and selling was largely confined to the burhs, encouraging town life; and areas of settlement in the Midlands and Danish towns were consolidated into shires. Overseas, Athelstan built alliances by marrying off four of his half sisters to various rulers in western Europe.
He was also a great collector of works of art and religious relics which he gave away to many of his followers and churches in order to gain their support. He died in 940 at the height of his power and was buried in Malmesbury Abbey. He had been an ardent supporter and endower of the Abbey and is fitting that he should be buried here.


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