Athelstan was the bastard son of King Edward the Elder. He was brought up by his aunt at the Royal Court of Mercia and was, thus, very popular in the Midlands and the North. His legitimate brother, Elfweard, took the throne upon their father's death but died after only fifteen days as king. He was probably murdered by Athelstan's supporters and the same happened to his younger brother, Edwin, said to have been 'drowned' at sea. Despite this rocky start, Athelstan was one of the greatest monarchs England has ever had, yet his achievements are rarely recognised. He became King of both the Norse Kingdom of York and over Northumbria, something his predecessors had never really achieved properly. He received acceptance as overlord from the Kings of Scotland and Strathclyde, and the Welsh Kings who had held out on King Alfred. In AD 937, he crushed all thoughts of Celtic independence at the Battle of Brunanburgh and his navy sailed as far north as Caithness to re-enforce his position. Meantime, at home, scholars flocked to his court which became the flower of European culture.
For more details of King Athelstan's life, take a look at our Early British Kingdoms website.
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