Æthelstan presenting a book to Saint Cuthbert
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[1] presented by Æthelstan to the saint's shrine in Chester-le-Street. He wore a crown of the same design on his "crowned bust" coins.[2]
King of the Anglo-Saxons
Coronation4 September 925
PredecessorEdward the Elder or Ælfweard
(as King of the English)
King of the English
Reign927 – 27 October 939
(as King of the Anglo-Saxons)
SuccessorEdmund I
Bornc. 894
Died27 October 939 (about 45)
FatherEdward the Elder
ReligionChalcedonian Christianity

Æthelstan or Athelstan (n/; Old English: Æþelstan[a] or Æðelstān;[b] Old Norse: Aðalsteinn meaning "noble stone"; c. 894 – 27 October 939) was King of the Anglo-Saxons from 924 to 927 and King of the English from 927 to 939 when he died.[c] He was the son of King Edward the Elder and his first wife, Ecgwynn. Modern historians regard him as the first King of England and one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon kings. He never married and had no children. He was succeeded by his half-brother, Edmund.

When Edward died in July 924, Æthelstan was accepted by the Mercians as king. His half-brother Ælfweard may have been recognised as king in Wessex, but died within three weeks of their father's death. Æthelstan encountered resistance in Wessex for several months, and was not crowned until September 925. In 927 he conquered the last remaining Viking kingdom, York, making him the first Anglo-Saxon ruler of the whole of England. In 934 he invaded Scotland and forced Constantine II to submit to him, but Æthelstan's rule was resented by the Scots and Vikings, and in 937 they invaded England. Æthelstan defeated them at the Battle of Brunanburh, a victory which gave him great prestige both in the British Isles and on the Continent. After his death in 939 the Vikings seized back control of York, and it was not finally reconquered until 954.

Æthelstan centralised government; he increased control over the production of charters and summoned leading figures from distant areas to his councils. These meetings were also attended by rulers from outside his territory, especially Welsh kings, who thus acknowledged his overlordship. More legal texts survive from his reign than from any other 10th-century English king. They show his concern about widespread robberies, and the threat they posed to social order. His legal reforms built on those of his grandfather, Alfred the Great. Æthelstan was one of the most pious West Saxon kings, and was known for collecting relics and founding churches. His household was the centre of English learning during his reign, and it laid the foundation for the Benedictine monastic reform later in the century. No other West Saxon king played as important a role in European politics as Æthelstan, and he arranged the marriages of several of his sisters to continental rulers.


By the ninth century the many kingdoms of the early Anglo-Saxon period had been consolidated into four: Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria and East Anglia.[4] In the eighth century, Mercia had been the most powerful kingdom in southern England, but in the early ninth, Wessex became dominant under Æthelstan's great-great-grandfather, Egbert. In the middle of the century, England came under increasing attack from Viking raids, culminating in invasion by the Great Heathen Army in 865. By 878, the Vikings had overrun East Anglia, Northumbria, and Mercia, and nearly conquered Wessex. The West Saxons fought back under Alfred the Great, and achieved a decisive victory at the Battle of Edington.[5] Alfred and the Viking leader Guthrum agreed on a division that gave Alfred western Mercia, while eastern Mercia was incorporated into Viking East Anglia. In the 890s, renewed Viking attacks were successfully fought off by Alfred, assisted by his son (and Æthelstan's father) Edward and Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians. Æthelred ruled English Mercia under Alfred and was married to his daughter Æthelflæd. Alfred died in 899 and was succeeded by Edward. Æthelwold, the son of Æthelred, King Alfred's older brother and predecessor as king, made a bid for power, but was killed at the Battle of the Holme in 902.[6]

Little is known of warfare between the English and the Danes over the next few years, but in 909, Edward sent a West Saxon and Mercian army to ravage Northumbria. The following year the Northumbrian Danes attacked Mercia, but suffered a decisive defeat at the Battle of Tettenhall.[7] Æthelred died in 911 and was succeeded as ruler of Mercia by his widow Æthelflæd. Over the next decade, Edward and Æthelflæd conquered Viking Mercia and East Anglia. Æthelflæd died in 918 and was briefly succeeded by her daughter Ælfwynn, but in the same year Edward deposed her and took direct control of Mercia.[8]

When Edward died in 924, he controlled all of England south of the Humber.[7] The Viking king Sihtric ruled the Kingdom of York in southern Northumbria, but Ealdred maintained Anglo-Saxon rule in at least part of the former kingdom of Bernicia from his base in Bamburgh in northern Northumbria. Constantine II ruled Scotland, apart from the southwest, which was the British Kingdom of Strathclyde. Wales was divided into a number of small kingdoms, including Deheubarth in the southwest, Gwent in the southeast, Brycheiniog immediately north of Gwent, and Gwynedd in the north.[9]

Other Languages
العربية: أثيلستان
تۆرکجه: اتلستن
Bân-lâm-gú: Æthelstan
беларуская: Этэльстан
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Этэльстан
български: Етелстан
català: Etelstan
čeština: Ethelstan
Cymraeg: Athelstan
eesti: Athelstan
español: Athelstan
Esperanto: Adelstano
فارسی: اتلستن
français: Æthelstan
한국어: 애설스탠
հայերեն: Էթելսթան
हिन्दी: ऍथलस्टैन
Bahasa Indonesia: Ethelstan
ქართული: ათელსტანი
latviešu: Etelstans
Lëtzebuergesch: Athelstan
lietuvių: Atelstanas
norsk nynorsk: Adalstein av England
polski: Athelstan
română: Athelstan
русский: Этельстан
Scots: Athelstan
Simple English: Athelstan
slovenčina: Athelstan
српски / srpski: Етелстан Сјајни
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Ethelstan Sjajni
suomi: Athelstan
Türkçe: Athelstan
українська: Етельстан