Silver coin of Athelstan

Minted in York, England, AD 923/4-939

'King of all Britain'

Athelstan (reigned AD 923/4 -939) was the son of Edward 'the Elder' and the grandson of Alfred the Great. On his father's death he was accepted as king first of Mercia, then of Wessex. Between the two kingdoms, he was effectively ruler of the whole of England south of the River Humber. In 927 he drove the Viking king Guthfrith out of York and seized the kingdom of Northumbria, thus bringing the whole of England under his control. Various rulers of neighbouring kingdoms in Wales and Scotland are said to have submitted to his authority, and it was probably around this time that Athelstan began to use the title Rex Totius Britanniae ('King of All Britain'). This appears on the coin in the form REX TO BRIT.

Athelstan's claim to rule the whole of Britain was certainly exaggerated, but it was a claim which he worked hard to enforce, invading Scotland by land and by sea in 934. His greatest power came in 937, with the Battle of Brunanburh, in which he defeated an alliance of Vikings, Scots, and Britons from Strathclyde and probably also Wales. This battle is commemorated in a splendid contemporary poem. Following the battle, Athelstan's nominal overlordship throughout Britain was probably unchallenged, but he died in 939, and his authority died with him.

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More information


H.A. Grueber and C.F. Keary, A catalogue of English coins i (London, 1893)

M.M. Archibald and C.E. Blunt, British Museum, Anglo Saxon co, Sylloge of coins of the British Isles 34 ()

C.E. Blunt, B.H.I.H. Stewart and C.S.S. Lyon, Coinage in tenth-Century Engla (Oxford University Press, 1989)


Diameter: 23.500 mm
Weight: 1.630 g

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