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Ethelstan: Or, the Battle of Brunanburgh, a Dramatic Chronicle

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Athelstan set up a system of authority through ealdormen. These men were essentially mini kings who governed large areas in the name of and under the authority of the king. Many of these ealdormen had Danish names, meaning they had earlier led Danish armies. Athelstan retained them. Below them were the reeves – noble landowners – who were charged with governing a town or estate. The reeves also had requirements of charity. Landowners had to pay a certain amount to the poor and free one enslaved person per year. In 934 Olaf Guthfrithson succeeded his father Guthfrith as the Norse King of Dublin. The alliance between the Norse and the Scots was cemented by the marriage of Olaf to Constantine's daughter. By August 937 Olaf had defeated his rivals for control of the Viking part of Ireland, and he promptly launched a bid for the former Norse kingdom of York. Individually Olaf and Constantine were too weak to oppose Æthelstan, but together they could hope to challenge the dominance of Wessex. In the autumn they joined with the Strathclyde Britons under Owain to invade England. Medieval campaigning was normally conducted in the summer, and Æthelstan could hardly have expected an invasion on such a large scale so late in the year. He seems to have been slow to react, and an old Latin poem preserved by William of Malmesbury accused him of having "languished in sluggish leisure". The allies plundered English territory while Æthelstan took his time gathering a West Saxon and Mercian army. However, Michael Wood praises his caution, arguing that unlike Harold in 1066, he did not allow himself to be provoked into precipitate action. When he marched north, the Welsh did not join him, and they did not fight on either side. [60] Symeon of Durham. ”Libellus de Exordio". In The Battle of Brunanburh. A Casebook. Ed. Michael Livingston. University of Exeter Press. 2011. pp. 54–55

Athelstan lives with the Vikings and is introduced to their way of life. He can see the value in their ways and beliefs, and so becomes torn between his commitment to his Christian faith and his desire to fully become part of his new community. King Athelstan was the eldest son of Edward the Elder and should have automatically become king at his death in 924 CE. However, due to his problems with the kingdom of Wessex, he was not officially crowned till the next year. His coronation ceremony took place on 4 September 1925 in Kingston upon Thames. He was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Contemporary chroniclers stated that Athelstan was 30 years old at the time of his coronation, from which we can infer his birth date. But, aside from the name and general piety, and a connection between Athelstan and King Alfred, it is hard to see much of the Athelstan character that we see on Vikings in this English monarch.

The location of the battlefield is unknown [18] and has been the subject of lively debate among historians since at least the 17th century. [49] Over forty locations have been proposed, from the southwest of England to Scotland, [50] [51] although most historians agree that a location in northern England is the most plausible. [52] [13] Unhappy with this change in power, the York Vikings and the Scots combined forces to invade England in 937. Athelstan, in alliance with the King of Dublin, defeated the combined Viking and Scottish forces, earning him great respect as a ruler across Europe. The battle of Brunanburh is mentioned or alluded to in over forty Anglo-Saxon, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Norman and Norse medieval texts.

Cavill, Paul. ”The Place-Name Debate". In The Battle of Brunanburh. A Casebook. Ed. Michael Livingston. University of Exeter Press. 2011. pp. 327–349 Cavill, Paul (2001). Vikings: Fear and Faith in Anglo-Saxon England (PDF). HarperCollins Publishers. s victory prevented the dissolution of England, but it failed to unite the island: Scotland and Strathclyde remained independent. [44] Foot writes that "[e]xaggerating the importance of this victory is difficult". [44] Livingston writes that the battle was "the moment when Englishness came of age" and "one of the most significant battles in the long history not just of England but of the whole of the British isles". [45] The battle was called "the greatest single battle in Anglo-Saxon history before the Hastings" by Alfred Smyth, who nonetheless says its consequences beyond Æthelstan's reign have been overstated. [46] Wirral Archaeology Press Release (22 October 2019). "The search for the Battle of Brunanburh, is over". Liverpool University Press blog. Anonymous. ”Annals of Ulster". In The Battle of Brunanburh. A Casebook. Ed. Michael Livingston. University of Exeter Press. 2011. pp. 144–145Breeze, Andrew (1999). "The Battle of Brunanburh and Welsh tradition". Neophilologus. 83 (3): 479–482. doi: 10.1023/A:1004398614393. S2CID 151098839. According to William of Malmesbury, after the Hereford meeting Æthelstan went on to expel the Cornish from Exeter, fortify its walls, and fix the Cornish boundary at the River Tamar. This account is regarded sceptically by historians, however, as Cornwall had been under English rule since the mid-ninth century. Thomas Charles-Edwards describes it as "an improbable story", while historian John Reuben Davies sees it as the suppression of a British revolt and the confinement of the Cornish beyond the Tamar. Æthelstan emphasised his control by establishing a new Cornish see and appointing its first bishop, but Cornwall kept its own culture and language. [51] Silver penny of King Æthelstan Egil's Saga contains more detailed topographical information than any of the other medieval texts, although its usefulness as historical evidence is disputed. [41] According to this account, Olaf's army occupied an unnamed fortified town north of a heath, with large inhabited areas nearby. Æthelstan's camp was pitched to the south of Olaf, between a river on one side and a forest on raised ground on the other, to the north of another unnamed town at several hours' ride from Olaf's camp. [74] Athelstan also had several foster sons, including Louis, Alan II (the Duke of Brittany), and Hakon (the son of Harald Fairhair, King of Norway). His court was supposed to be an extremely cosmopolitan one by Saxon standards. Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor Death and Aftermath

a b Symeon of Durham. ”Historia Regum". In The Battle of Brunanburh. A Casebook. Ed. Michael Livingston. University of Exeter Press. 2011. pp. 64–65 Pseudo-Ingulf. ”Ingulfi Croylandensis Historia". In The Battle of Brunanburh. A Casebook. Ed. Michael Livingston. University of Exeter Press. 2011. pp. 134–139 The Athelstan that we see on Vikings, played by George Blagden, is an English monk at Lindisfarne in Northumbria. He is taken as a prison by the Vikings when they raided the monastery in 793.

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We know that the missionary Willibrord was active in Denmark from 710, where he was treated respectfully but found few converts. Later in the 820s the monk Ansgar is attested in Denmark during the reign of Harald Klak. He also focused on converting nearby Swedish communities, again with generally little success. But he was able to create the first Christian chapel in Denmark, in Hebedy, in 860. Narrator: Athelfleda was a powerful queen and also a good teacher. She taught Athelstan to love books and learning and her warriors taught him fighting skills. She taught him how to lead an army into war and she also taught him how to make peace. Wood, Michael (2001). In Search of England: Journeys into the English Past. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-23218-1. It was very common for the Vikings to take men and women captured on their raids home to Scandinavia to work as slaves, called thralls. Trading thralls was an important part of the Viking economy.

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