The Era of AEthelstan is one of contradictions. His behavior, his policies, his wars… pretty much everything that is happening during this period seems to have an element of duality. This man was discussed by scholars of his time in terms of his piety and his generosity both with the church and also with his subjects. And there is plenty of real evidence that AEthelstan was a kind king and role model to those around him, and that he took his role as a ruler seriously and with care.
But AEthelstan was also a war leader who was ruthless in his pursuit of victory. And he used his powers of war often, and with great effect. In just a few years he earned a reputation of being a militaristic powerhouse, and it was a reputation well earned. By the end of 927, all of his neighbors had been either violently conquered or had been compelled to submit to his rule through military arms (or at least the threat of it).
And many of the actions he took on these campaigns defy what we would understand as the actions of a good person.
But he was an effective king, and for the people of England living in the late 920s, he probably was regarded as a very good king. For the first time in generations, Britain was enjoying a period of peace. The war, raids, and internal struggles that had marked this era suddenly came to an end.
This can’t be overstated.
In the 10th century, if your kingdom was at war, you were at war.Click here to be able to read the full rough transcript.