Athelstan: Facts About the Anglo-Saxon King

Here are some interesting facts about Athelstan.

  • Athelstan was an Anglo-Saxon king, who is often thought to be the first King of England. He was the Anglo-Saxon king from 924 to 927 AD, and King of England from 927 to 939.

  • He became king when his father, King Edward died. The king was so fond of Athelstan that he gave him a sword and made him a knight at an early age.
  • During the first two years of his reign, he fought the Danes and won York. He also defeated opposition in Cornwall and made the five Welsh kings each pay him 25,000 sheep every year.
  • In 934, Athelstan invaded Scotland by land and sea. He may have invaded because the death of the Norse king, Guthrith, that same year meant he could more easily invade.
  • He collected religious relics and works of art which he often gave to churches. He founded many monasteries in Britain, including the Abbey of St. John in Yorkshire.
  • Athelstan helped to promote learning, and one of his students invented a board game called Gospel Dice.
  • The epic poem Beowulf may have been written at his request.
  • He helped create an organization for masons, which may have led to the Freemasons. He also helped translate the Bible into English, banned Sunday trading and promoted trade in rural areas.
  • Athelstan was one of the first kings to write laws and enforce them. The first two laws were about paying money to the church, and making sure the poor were given money.
  • He owned land in Foxley in what is now Wiltshire, and gave the nearby town of Malmesbury 600 acres of land. To this day, the land is still owned by the Freemen of the town.
  • Athelstan was buried in Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire. His bones were taken sometime during the 16th century, and the tomb there today is an empty one.