Tag Archives: athelstan

Who was King Athelstan? And why does Ed Davey admire him?

Have you even heard of him?

Ask any child in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (there is a clue in the name) and they will tell you that he was the first of the seven Saxon kings who were crowned in Kingston. In fact, one of the primary schools is named after him.

We even have a Coronation stone where he is thought to have been ceremonially placed, although it has now been moved to a spot outside the Guildhall.

In a recent edition of the BBC History Magazine Ed Davey picked King Athelstan as his historical hero. Unfortunately the article is behind a paywall, but you can read the first half here. So why did he choose him?

Athelstan’s coronation took place in 925 and was highly significant because for the first time he united the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex. He was the first to be known as the King of the English. He later added northern Britain to his kingdom.

Kingston upon Thames was already a significant market town. It stood at the boundary of the two kingdoms with a very important river bridge between them – the first bridge upstream from London Bridge.

The Coronation is thought to have taken place in a church which was later replaced by the large Norman church of All Saints. Athelstan could be said to have invented the Coronation ceremony itself, using a ceremonial crown for the first time, a sarsen stone as his throne, and including text that still forms the basis of modern Coronation services.

All Saints Kingston has its own fascinating history, but it proudly proclaims itself as “Where England Began“.

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