Monday, 20 August 2012


(c. 895-939) King of Wessex (r. 924-939) and the first Anglo-Saxon king to have effective rule over the whole of England. The son of Edward the Elder, king of Wessex, Athelstan was brought up in Mercia by his aunt Aethelflaed, the lady of the Mercians. On his father's death in 924, Aethelstan was elected king in both Wesswx and Mercia. On the death of its king, Sihtric Caech, in 927 Athelstan seized York and received the submission of the Northumbrians, so completing the West Saxon takeover of all England. Athelstan's growing power united against him a strong coalition of Olak Guthfrithsson, king of Dublin and claimant to the throne of York, Constantine II, king of the Scots, and the Britons of Strathclyde. Athelstan decisively routed the allies at the battle of Brunanburh in 937. Regarded as a mighty king by his contemporaries, Athelstan enjoyed close relations with many European rulers, and he married his half-sisters into the royal houses of France, Germany and Burgandy. Athelstan never married and was succeeded by his half brother Edmund.

Notes from Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age by John Haywood. Thames & Hudson 2000. p 29

Battle of Brunanburh (937). Crushing victory of Athelstan, king of Wessex, over a colaition of Dublin Vikings, Scots and Strathclyde Britons led by Olaf Guthfrithsson of Dublin, at an unidentified location, probably in northern England. The battle was fought from dawn till dusk; when Olaf's army broke it was pursued by the West Saxons and Mercians, who cut down the fugitives. Though West Saxon losses were heavy, Olaf's army was cut to pieces and he himself barely escaped. Among the dead were five minor Norse kings, seven jarls and Cellach, the son of king Constantine II of the Scots. Olaf's aim had been to recapture York, seized by Athelstan in 927, and to curb the growing power of Wessex. Athelstan's victory was therefore an important step in the creation of a unified English kingdom.

Notes from Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age by John Haywood. Thames & Hudson 2000. pp 37-38

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