The First King of England
Imprint: Yale University Press
Series: The English Monarchs Series
"Æthelstan was perhaps the most important king of tenth-century England, but we know very little about him, and he has no modern biography. Sarah Foot triumphantly fills this gap, and adds to the richness of our understanding of the period in a way that few others have managed."—Chris Wickham, author of The Inheritance Of Rome
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.