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British Monarchs: Athelstan (House of Wessex) 925-940


House: House of Wessex
Reign: 925-940

Called the Glorious, was the King of England from 924 to 939. He was the son of King Edward the Elder, and nephew of Ethelfleda (Ęthelflęd) of Mercia. His reign is frequently overlooked, with much focus going to Alfred the Great before him, and Edgar after. However, his reign was of fundamental importance to political developments in the 10th century.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which is so vocal during the reigns of Alfred and Edward the Elder, falls into relative silence during
Athelstan's reign, and what entries survive are retrospective. A few references tell us of his military campaigns, the longest entry being a poem about the Battle of Brunanburh, probably composed in his successor Edmund's reign. Other narrative sources from across Europe, though, provide us with more information. The Annals of Flodoard contain several references to Athelstan's dealing with the rulers of west and east Francia, as does the Chronicle of Nantes. William of Malmesbury, however, writing in the early 12th century, provides us with the greatest detail. His work might even draw on a (now lost) Vita Ęthelstani, as Michael Wood argues, but caution is called for as this case has yet to be proven and William's account can rarely be verified.

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