Aethelstan: The First King of England (The English Monarchs Series)

by Sarah Foot

Hardcover, 2011



Call number



Yale University Press (2011), Edition: 1st Edition, 283 pages


The powerful and innovative King Æthelstan reigned only briefly (924-939), yet his achievements during those eventful fifteen years changed the course of English history. He won spectacular military victories (most notably at Brunanburh), forged unprecedented political connections across Europe, and succeeded in creating the first unified kingdom of the English. To claim for him the title of "first English monarch" is no exaggeration. In this nuanced portrait of Æthelstan, Sarah Foot offers the first full account of the king ever written. She traces his life through the various spheres in which he lived and worked, beginning with the intimate context of his family, then extending outward to his unusual multiethnic royal court, the Church and his kingdom, the wars he conducted, and finally his death and legacy. Foot describes a sophisticated man who was not only a great military leader but also a worthy king. He governed brilliantly, developed creative ways to project his image as a ruler, and devised strategic marriage treaties and gift exchanges to cement alliances with the leading royal and ducal houses of Europe. Æthelstan's legacy, seen in the new light of this masterful biography, is inextricably connected to the very forging of England and early English identity. - Publisher.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Medievalgirl
Why is it that us Brits remember our defeat at the hands of the Normans, but seem to have largely forgotten the West Saxon ruling dynasty who effectively made England?
Alfred is at best remembered for burning the cakes in the popular imagination, not for his laws, educational reforms, or victories
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against the Vikings.
His daughter 'the Lady of the Mercians' was until recently all but unknown to many- despite being the first woman to rule a kingdom in her own right, 600 years before Elizabeth.

Athelstan seems to be another largely forgotten ruler, yet his rule and achievements resulted in him being dubbed 'the English Charlemagne'.
A timely biography, rather academic, but recommended for anyone who wants to know about the First King of England.
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Original language


Physical description

9.75 inches


0300125356 / 9780300125351
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