Edward the Elder and the Making of England
By Harriet Harvey Wood

Amazon.co.uk link

After my deviation to look at the Knights Templar, it is back to Anglo Saxon history this month and a book about the life and times of Athelstan’s father Edward the Elder.

While there is not a lot of surviving records of Edward the Elder’s life, the author has managed to compile 350 pages in this book. Consequently, there is a lot about the “times”, rather than the “life” of Edward. I nevertheless found it a fasinating book to read particularly the family relationships.

The following is a extract from the flyleaf of the book.

“Three men have been credited with being the first king of England – Alfred the Great, his son Edward the Elder and Edward’s son and Alfred’s grandson, Athelstan. It is an undoubted fact that, were it not for the work of Alfred, there might never have been the possibility of an English kingdom in the sense that we now understand it.

It is also true that Athelstan was the first explicitly to rule over an English kingdom in roughly its present shape and extent. What, then, was the contribution of Edward to the evolution of what his son was to inherit? As a child, he saw his father at the lowest point of his fortunes; as a boy, he grew up under the constant threat of further Danish invasion.

Edward came to adulthood in the knowledge that it was his responsibility to safeguard his country. By his death, he was undoubtedly the most powerful and respected ruler, not only in England but in western Europe, and he achieved this through both martial and legislative prowess. Edward built on his father’s work, but he immeasurably expanded it, and the chroniclers who wrote in the centuries which immediately followed his death remembered him as ‘greatly excelling his father in extent of power’.

Edward the Elder succeeded Alfred as king of the Anglo-Saxons; he died as king of the English. And yet virtually nothing has been written about him. Until now.

While biographies of Alfred and studies of the achievements of Athelstan pour from the press, Edward is forgotten. Yet he was the first ruler to leave behind him the possibility of a united England, a country in which men thought of themselves as English, speaking a language which all would have described as English, which had never existed in quite this form before.”

I hope that you enjoy developing your knowledge and understanding of this period in history.

Alex Allan

January 2020