Athelstan

(Athelstan of England)

895–939
10
CARRYING PRINCE HAKON IN HIS ARMS, HAUK STEPPED BEFORE THE KING.

Although usually overshadowed by his grandfather, Alfred the Great, Athelstan was an important Saxon King who consolidated the Saxon Kingdom, brought almost all of England under his control, pushed the Celts back to the borders of Wales and Scotland, and forged important alliances with other Scandinavian and European kingdoms. He is most famous for his victory at the Battle of Brunaburh, where he and his brother Edmund stood against the combined army of their Danish and Scottish enemies. As the Saxon kingdom expanded to gain predominance over most of England, the Celtic and Nordic princes resisted him. By soundly defeating them all in a single blow, Athelstan assured the continuing predominance of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom, at a time when, had he failed to hold his realm together, the tenuous unity of the Wessex kingdom may have collapsed.

Athelstan is also notable for marrying off all of his sisters to European and Scandinavian royalty, and serving as foster-father to Hakon, son of Harald Fairhair of Norway. In these ways the Saxon kingdom forged ties and alliances with all of Europe, and the tradition of marrying royalty into foreign royal houses became established.


Key events during the life of Athelstan:


Year
Event
895
Birth of Athelstan
899
Death of Alfred the Great
924
Death of Edward the Elder, Athelstan ascends to the throne.
925
Becomes foster-father of Hakon.
926
Takes over the Danish kingdom of Northumbrian.
  Obtains submission of Celtic Wales.
  Destroys the Danish fort at York, and annexed the region to his kingdom.
933
Provided for Hakon of Norway ships to overthrow his half-brother Erik.
934
Invaded Scotland to drive back the Scottish Celts.
937
Athelstan defeats the combined armies of Danes, Scots and Welshmen at Brunaburh.
940
Dies at Gloucester.

Other Resources


Story Links
Book Links
Children of Kings  in  A Child's Book of Warriors  by  William Canton
How King Athelstan Fought at Brunanburgh  in  Stories from English History  by  Alfred J. Church
Harald Fairhair  in  Stories of the Vikings  by  Mary MacGregor


Image Links


Athelstan
 in A Child's Book of Warriors

Carrying Prince Hakon in his arms, Hauk stepped before the King.
 in Stories of the Vikings


Contemporary
Short Biography
Harald Fairhair United small and scattered tribes of Norway into a kingdom at the bidding of his wife Gyda.
Edward the Elder Father of Athelstan and son of Alfred the Great. Reigned 899-824
Olaf III Danish-Gallic prince of the Irish Sea and Western Scotland.
Constantine II King of the Scots.