Friday, October 19, 2012

Æthelstan. 925—940

Three sons of Eadward reigned in succession.

The eldest, of illegitimate birth, was Æthelstan. Sihtric, the Danish king at York, owned him as over-lord, and on Sihtric's death in 926, Æthelstan took Danish North-humberland under his direct rule. The Welsh kings were reduced to make a fuller acknowledgment of his supremacy than they had made to his father. He drove the Welsh out of the half of Exeter which had been left to them, and confined them to the modern Cornwall beyond the Tamar. Great rulers on the Continent sought his alliance. The empire of Charles the Great had broken up.

One of Æthelstan's sisters was given to Charles the Simple, the king of the Western Franks; another to Hugh the Great, Duke of the French and lord of Paris, who, though nominally the vassal of the king, was equal in power to his lord, and whose son was afterwards the first king of modern France. A third sister was given to Otto, the son of Henry, the king of the Eastern Franks, from whom, in due time, sprang a new line of Emperors.

Æthelstan's greatness drew upon him the jealousy of the king of the Scots and of all the northern kings. In 937 he defeated them all in a great battle at Brunanburh, of which the site is unknown. His victory was celebrated in a splendid war-song.

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