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who was the first king of england

who was the first king of england

who was the first king of england

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who was the first king of england,

After the Roman Empire’s decline, several Saxon clansmen and “kings,” as well as Scandinavian invaders ruled different regions of England and Britain. The kings who eventually evolved into the kings of the whole of England, were the kings of Wessex and were crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The First Kings in England

Both Egbert, king of Wessex and Offa, king of Mercia are sometimes called the first kings of England. Offa dominated a large part of southern England in the late eight century, but his descendants did not manage to keep the area as a kingdom. Egbert, king of Wessex, managed to conquer Mercia in 829, but he, too, lost control over this territory. Wessex was the largest Anglo-Saxon kingdom by the late ninth century and Alfred the Great was crowned as “King of the Angles and Saxons.” He ruled over western Mercia, but not rule northern or eastern England (Danelaw).

who was the first king of england
who was the first king of england

The rise of the West Saxons

The Kingdom of England – with roughly the same borders as exist today – originated in the 10th century. It was created when the West Saxon kings extended their power over southern Britain.

The rise of the West Saxons began in the first half of the ninth century. The balance of power within Britain had shifted constantly due to tensions between rival kingdoms, as well as the arrival of hostile forces from Scandinavia.

Viking raids were first documented in the 790s, but in the middle of the ninth century records of their attacks became more frequent, and larger Viking armies began to spend the winter in England to extend the fighting season.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that a ‘great heathen army’ arrived in 865 and conquered East Anglia (in 869–70), Mercia (in 873–74) and Northumbria (in 874–75). The Vikings then started to settle Northumbria (876), part of Mercia (877) and East Anglia (879–80). They also raided deep into Wessex,

but in May 878 Viking forces were defeated by King Alfred the Great (reigned 871–899) at the Battle of Edington in Wiltshire. The defeated army eventually settled in East Anglia.

The rise of the West Saxons

King Alfred’s victory at Edington, combined with a political vacuum left in Mercia after the death of King Ceolwulf in 879, gave Alfred his opportunity to establish a new political order. Instead of a king, Mercia now had an ealdorman, or leading nobleman, who acted on Alfred’s behalf.

Part of what had been the kingdom of Mercia was ceded to the Scandinavians. Alfred agreed a treaty with Guthrum, the Viking leader,

which recognised the legal and territorial rights of the Danes and English on either side of a line that bisected Mercia. In charters of the 880s and 890s, Alfred began to be described as king ‘of the Angles and Saxons’ and even ‘of the Anglo-Saxons’.

who was the first king of england
who was the first king of england

Who was the earliest king of England?

The first king of all of England was Athelstan (895-939 AD) of the House of Wessex, grandson of Alfred the Great and 30th great-granduncle to Queen Elizabeth II. The Anglo-Saxon king defeated the last of the Viking invaders and consolidated Britain, ruling from 925-939 AD.

Most people remember King Alfred, if only because he is the only English monarch to be accorded the title ‘the Great’ but far fewer people will have heard of Aethelstan who reigned only briefly between 924 and 939. Yet his achievements during those fifteen years changed the course of English history. He won spectacular military victories, most notably at Brunanburh against a combined Scottish and Norse army in 937, forged unparalleled political connections across Europe and succeeded in creating the first unified kingdom of the English. It is no exaggeration to claim that he was the ‘first English monarch’.

first king of all of England

Sarah Foot offers a vibrant and lucid portrait of Athelstan, the first full account of the king ever written. Given the paucity of contemporary sources,

she adopts a thematic approach tracing his life through the various spheres in which he lived and worked.

She begins with the intimate context of his family,

extending from the personal to his unusual multi-ethnic royal court,

the Church and his kingdom, the wars he conducted and finally his death and legacy. For Foot, Aethelstan was a sophisticated man,

a great military leader, so essential for a medieval monarch but also a worthy king. He governed very effectively and

developed creative and original ways to project his image as a ruler. He also devised strategic marriage treaties and gift exchanges to cement alliances with the leading royal and ducal houses of Europe. In this excellent biography,

Athelstan’s legacy is seen in the new light that is inextricably connected to the forging of England and early English identity.

How Did Athelstan Rule Over England

One of the key factors to Athelstan’s success as king of a large territory was the establishment of a simple yet effective system of authority involving ealdormen, who were essentially mini-kings who would rule over a sizeable chunk of the kingdom. Though they served the king, their authority was independent of him. Originally ealdormen were charged with looking after a small area such as a shire, but during Athelstan’s reign the role was expanded to cover a much wider area.

At this time England was divided into territories, many of which were the lands of the former kingdoms that Athelstan and his forefathers had conquered to form the Kingdom of England. These included Northumbria, a powerful northern land, Mercia,

a large area in the north-west of England, Wessex, Kent and East Anglia, among others. Ealdormen were charged with ruling these territories and they were responsible for levying taxes, presiding over courts, and leading troops into battle.

Local landowners of noble status were managed by the ealdormen, and these landowners, also know as reeves, worked closely with the bishops and abbots of their local area to maintain order and control. To maintain this system, Athelstan had a new charter drawn up, which was the most complex and intricate charter that England had ever seen up until this point.

who was the first king of england
who was the first king of england

What does a king wear on his back?

A royal mantle, or more simply a mantle, is a garment normally worn by emperors, kings or queens as a symbol of authority.

Who was the first queen in the world?

Kubaba is the first recorded female ruler in history. She was queen of Sumer, in what is now Iraq about 2,400 BC. Hatshepsut was ruler of Egypt.

Why is the English royal family German?

The House of Windsor is the reigning royal house of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. … In 1917, the name of the royal house was changed from the anglicised German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor because of anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom during World War I.

Why there is no king in England?

Though Elizabeth is married to Prince Philip, the law does not allow the husband to take the title of a king. … The reason being Queen Elizabeth is queen regnant, having inherited the position thereby becoming a ruler in her own right.


Athelstan became the first king to rule all the Anglo-Saxon people of Britain,

and was in effect the overlord of all Britain. In his reign rulers from Scotland and Wales attended assemblies at his court and witnessed royal charters. He tried, though with limited success, to bring the Northumbrian nobility closer to southern Britain than to the Norse.
Athelstan likeness on the quire screen of Ripon Cathedral
Athelstan likeness on the quire
screen of Ripon Cathedral

Athelstan died on 27 October 939 at Gloucester. According to his wishes, he was not buried beside his father and brother at Winchester, but at Malmesbury Abbey. His skeleton was lost in the turmoil of the Reformation but a 15th-century effigy and tomb mark his burial place.

After Athelstan’s death, Anglo-Saxon control of northern England collapsed. Both Edmund and Eadred spent most of their reigns trying to win back control. Edmund briefly captured York, but after his death the Vikings regained it. It was not until 954 that the Viking king Eric Bloodaxe was driven out of Northumbria and the Anglo-Saxons once more controlled all of England.

who was the first king of england
who was the first king of england


The 12th-century chronicler William of Malmesbury wrote that ‘no one more just or more learned ever governed the kingdom’. It is a verdict shared by modern historians,

who generally regard Athelstan as the one Saxon king who can be reasonably compared to his grandfather Alfred the Great.

He is generally regarded as the first true King of England, and the father of medieval England. His achievements go far beyond merely asserting a strong central rule; he laid the foundation for monastic reform, established a thorough and efficient system of government, justice,

and administration, and helped make England one of the wealthiest nations in Europe.

Even in his lifetime Athelstan was lauded as a strong military leader, a scholar, and a devout ruler. Yet by the Victorian period, his reputation had so far been overshadowed by Alfred that Charles Dickens gave him one short

paragraph in his ‘Child’s History of England’. Athelstan is one of England’s greatest rulers, yet remains very much a ‘forgotten man’.

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