Æthelstan the Glorious: I
No king of England is more important and less remembered than Æthelstan.
It had been the great family enterprise, started by Alfred, continued by Edward and Æthelflæd, Alfred’s son and daughter, and brought to completion by Alfred’s grandson, Æthelstan. These three generations had made it their lives’ work first to save their land from the depredations of the pagan raiders who had laid kingdoms waste, then to wrest back control of the country from the pagans, and finally to make the many realms of Britain into one country.
These tasks, through the long labours of his grandfather, his father and aunt, and Æthelstan’s own toil, had finally been accomplished. Æthelstan was now ‘by grace of God king of the English and equally guardian of the whole country of Britain’. But when, in 937, news reached Æthelstan that the kings of Scotland, Dublin and Strathclyde had united against him and were bringing fire and ruin down upon his realm, it seemed that all his family had worked towards for the previous 70 years was on the verge of being undone. Even Æthelstan, the most decisive of kings, became all but helpless with indecision, dithering as to whether he dared face such a host of enemies. But he was the grandson of Alfred, son of Edward and nephew of Æthelflæd. None of them would have given up, even when faced with such odds. So Æthelstan regathered himself, summoned the men of Wessex and Mercia, and marched north for the great battle of his time.