Æthelstan: The First King of England by Sarah Foot

By Sarah Foot

The strong and leading edge King ?thelstan reigned simply in brief (924-939), but his achievements in the course of these eventful fifteen years replaced the process English historical past. He gained amazing army victories (most particularly at Brunanburh), solid unheard of political connections throughout Europe, and succeeded in developing the 1st unified country of the English. to assert for him the identify of "first English monarch" isn't any exaggeration.In this nuanced portrait of ?thelstan, Sarah Foot bargains the 1st complete account of the king ever written. She lines his existence in the course of the quite a few spheres within which he lived and labored, starting with the intimate context of his relations, then extending outward to his strange multiethnic royal courtroom, the Church and his state, the wars he carried out, and at last his loss of life and legacy. Foot describes a worldly guy who used to be not just a superb army chief but in addition a helpful king. He ruled brilliantly, built artistic how you can undertaking his picture as a ruler, and devised strategic marriage treaties and present exchanges to cement alliances with the best royal and ducal homes of Europe. ?thelstan's legacy, obvious within the new mild of this masterful biography, is inextricably attached to the very forging of britain and early English id.

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56 In an unequivocally decisive victory, Æthelstan had saved his united English kingdom, preserving to the end of his life his hegemony not just over the Mercian kingdom where he had spent his childhood, but also the Five Boroughs in eastern Mercia, East Anglia and Northumbria, all formerly occupied by the Danes. Further, his crushing of England’s 55 56 See below, 178–9. ASC 937; poem The Battle of Brunanburh, lines 65b–73. ENGLISH KING? 25 external enemies would help to ensure the smooth succession of his brother Edmund in 939.

59 Asser chose to use this title to describe the king in the preface to his life of Alfred where he emphasized the other key factor that bound this fusion of two peoples together: their shared Christian faith. He addressed ASC 941D. GP, v, 247, pp. 594–5. 59 Simon Keynes, ‘The West Saxon Charters of King Æthelwulf and his Sons’, EHR, cix (1994), 1147–9; Pratt, The Political Thought, 105–6. 60 Alfred clearly considered himself as more than just a West Saxon king, and coined this royal title to suggest his novel vision of a future kingdom of Angles and Saxons bound together under a single monarch.

15 Edward moved rapidly on his sister’s death, going straight to the burh at Tamworth (a long-standing Mercian centre) and occupying it. ’16 Next, Edward went to Nottingham, captured the Danish burh and ordered it to be repaired and manned with both English and Danes. 18 Edward’s swift action in capitalizing on his sister’s death gave him direct rule over her Mercian dominion. 19 West Saxon and Mercian chroniclers offer us different narratives at this point. While the West Saxon Chronicle reported the general submission in 918 and the next year Edward’s strengthening of the Mercian border in the north-west, the building of a burh at Thelwall and the sending of a Mercian force into Northumbria to Manchester to repair and man a fort, the Mercian Register focused exclusively on family politics.

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