Here’s a question sent in by a recent visitor to the site: “who was the first king of England?”. The answer to this question is, however, not as simple as it might appear. Some historians will say it was King Alfred, others Cnut the Great, and still others Henry II. Here’s my answer.
Athelstan (c.894 – 939 AD), the son of Edward the Elder and grandson of Alfred the Great, was the first king to rule all of England. It was Athelstan who first united the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria with his kingdom Wessex to create a united English kingdom. During his lifetime Athelstan was usually referred to as ‘King of the English’ (rex Anglorum), and on occasion as ‘King of all Britain’ (rex totius Britanniae). Althelstan reigned from 925 to his death at the age of 45 in 939.
However, to muddy the waters, it should be noted that Athelstan’s grandfather, Alfred the Great, was the first to be crowned ‘King of the English’, but, his kingdom did not include all of present-day England.
We’ll look at the equally contentious answer to the question ‘who was the first Queen of England?’ at a later date!