Aethelstan Background
The Aethelstan Trust
A brief history of Æthelstan - first King of all England

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Æthelstan is not as widely known as he should be. He achieved a great deal in his short life and did so with faith and with vision.

We know a little about his looks and a little more about his personality:

Physical appearance:
Recorded as being medium in height, slender in body, his hair flaxen.

Charming and well disposed to churchmen, affable and kind to laymen Audacious and forceful, much beloved by his subjects for his courage, humility and like a thunderbolt to rebels with his invincible steadfastness. It was said that he could rule by terror in his name alone.


Æthelstan presenting a book to St Cuthbert, the earliest surviving portrait of an English king. Illustration in a manuscript of Bede's Life of Saint Cuthbert presented by Æthelstan to the saint's shrine in Chester-le-Street.

Aethelstan Quotation
William of Malmesbury (c.1080-1143) in Gesta Regum Anglorum: of handsome appearance and graceful manners... [N]ot beyond what is pleasing in stature and slender in body; his hair, as we ourselves have seen from his relics, flaxen, with gold threads.

William of Malmesbury also wrote of him:

The firm opinion is still current among the English that no one more just or learned administered the state.

Æthelstan was an able administrator and made many good laws, which combated theft, oppression and fraud and mitigated severity to young offenders. He was charitable and popular and like his great-grandfather Ethelwulf, made provisions for his poorer subjects. Æthelstan directed that each of the manors owned by the crown should be subject to an annual charge, which should be used to relieve the poor and the destitute.

Annals of Ulster refer to him as: a pillar of dignity in the western world.

In the year 937, Constantine II of Scotland in alliance with Eógan of Strathclyde and Olaf Guthfrithson, King of Dublin, invaded England. The King marched an army north to meet them, gaining a glorious victory at the Battle of Brunanburh in 937, against a combined invasion force of Vikings and Scots.

The Annals of Ulster record the battle as: a great battle, lamentable and terrible was cruelly which fell uncounted thousands of the Northmen. ... And on the other side, a multitude of Saxons fell; but Æthelstan, the king of the Saxons, obtained a great victory.
Aethelstan Aethelstan's Crown

The Crown of King Æthelstan which is on show in All Saints Church, Kinston-upon-Thames.

Political alliances arranged through the marriages of his half sisters

Gifts brought to him by suitors to these sisters, such as the sword of Constantine and the lance of Charlemagne became symbols of his sovereignty.

Aethelstan A short biography of Æthelstan
Aethelstan Æthelstan made new laws
AethelstanÆthelstan's Kingdom:

In the early days of Aethelstan’s life England was divided into kingdoms ships: Northumbria, Strathclyde, Cumbria, Mercia, Wales, Wessex, West Wales/Cornwall, Danelaw, East Anglia, Essex, Sussex and Kent.

During his reign these kingships eventually swore allegiance to Aethelstan and the England we know today first emerged.

Wessex: covered modern day Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Berkshire, Surrey, Sussex.

Mercia: Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, lincolnshire, Cheshire, Leicestershire.