The Battle of Brunanburh is largely unknown to all but the most die-hard buffs of Anglo-Saxon or Viking history. But it is a battle that deserves to be remembered. For it was the largest and bloodiest battle fought in Anglo-Saxon England prior to Hastings (and likely surpassing that later battle in the numbers of combatants involved). It left its victor, King Athelstan of Wessex, the first Anglo-Saxon king to be called “King of England”.
Athelstan was the son and heir of Edward the Elder, and grandson of Alfred the Great. Upon his father’s death in 924, Athelstan was acclaimed first King of Mercia (central England); and then King of Wessex (the dominant Saxon kingdom, encompassing all the area south of the Thames) the following year. Continuing the ambitious, anti-Danish policies of his father and grandfather, in 927 Athelstan conquered York; which had been in Danish hands for 60 years, since captured by Ivar the Boneless and the “Great Heathen Army” in 867.
After this, Constantine II of Alba (Scotland) and Owen I, ruler of British Strathclyde (Cumberland) submitted to Athelstan’s over-lordship. This effectively placed all of “England” under Saxon rule for the first time in history. (Prior to the Danish invasion of 866, England had been comprised of four rival kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, and Wessex. The first three of these were Anglish; with Wessex the only Saxon kingdom.)
After seven years of peace, Athelstan invaded Scottish territory. It has been suggested this was on account of Constantine’s attempt to renounce his submission to Athelstan’s over-lordship. A coalition formed…..
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