1 – Before the Beginning

The most popular royal family of the current time has to be the English Monarchy – the House of Windsor – with Queen Elizabeth II having been on the throne since her crowning in 1952, when her father, King George VI passed away.

There are many “Royalists” out there who know almost every detail of the modern royal family but the one thing that has intrigued me is where did they come from? Where did it all start? And that is what I decided to do.

I put together a little family tree and realised that Queen Elizabeth II can trace her direct lineage all the way back to Rollo, a 9th and 10th century Viking that became the first ruler of Normandy in France.

However, the England we know today has not always been. England only came into existence in the 10th century AD under the authority of Ethelstan, a grandson of Alfred the Great of Wessex.

So, I decided to take you on a little journey through history, to tell a tale of a small island country that began as a splintered nation, first under the rule of the Roman Empire and then from the Heptarchy through to unification, followed by invasions, claims to other lands, foreign languages, the creation of a new church, wars, deception, betrayal and finally, to one of the longest standing monarchs of the modern era.

Part 1 – Before the Beginning

Our story begins in the middle of the Dark Ages. The Anglo-Saxon Island was ruled by seven major kingdoms, known as the Heptarchy and made up of Wessex, Sussex, Essex, Kent, East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria.

East Anglia fell to Mercia in 794. When the last king of East Anglia, Sigered of Essex, died in 825, he ceded the kingdom to Ecgberht of Wessex. Offa of Mercia slowly gained control of Kent in 764 and by 785, had firmly established control over the kingdom of Kent. But Wessex overthrew Mercia in Kent and gained control in 825 after the battle of Ellendun.

Essex was probably annexed by Wessex around 827, again at a battle in Ellendun.

The Vikings had been raiding the Anglo-Saxons for a hundred years but the Great Heathen Army of 865 invaded with the intent to settle – which they did. Many battles were fought and it is here, in 871, where our main plot begins.

Alfred the Great had ascended the throne of Wessex in 871, at the age of 22 or 23, and inherited the problem of trying to halt the invading Vikings, who currently occupied Northumbria and Mercia under Danelaw.

Late in 871, Alfred probably paid the Vikings to retreat, which they did to London in Mercia. Through many battles between 873 and 886, Alfred eventually conquered London and declared himself king of the Anglo-Saxons and in 894, became a grandfather after his son, Edward, gave birth to the man that would unite the divided Anglo-Saxon kingdoms into one united Kingdom of England – Ethelstan.

Alfred died on 26 October 899, probably from Crohn’s disease or hemorrhoids based on the symptoms given by Alfred’s biographer, Asser. Alfred was succeeded by his elder son, Edward the Elder, who ruled the Anglo-Saxons from 899 until his death in 924, with Ethelstan ascending to the throne.

Ethelstan would become known as the man who united England into one nation, and it is noted that the start of England as a nation would be 927.

Alfred had been integral into the creation of schools and education within the Ango-Saxon kingdom, making English the primary language after the wane of Latin since the Roman demise almost 400 years earlier.

But once Ethelstan united England, English would only survive as the primary language of royalty for another 140 years or so until the invasion of William the Conqueror in 1066 – but we’ll get to that much later.

**In our next chapter, “Unification”, we delve into Ethelstan’s rule of the Anglo-Saxons and how he unified the kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria into a single nation – England!

Author: Brendon

2 thoughts on “1 – Before the Beginning

  1. Absolutely brilliant, I’m really looking forward to this series.
    You have a real talent Bren, Maybe one day I’ll be buying your novel, I do however want the first edition.

  2. Wrote A comment But instead of Posting it The Old Royalist accidently Deleted it.
    Being of English Birth this article isso enjoyable and light to read Cannot wait for more.
    Thank you young man for your time to research And Share such absolutely interesting articles.

    You need to change your Proffession.

    Excellent and Thank YOU. always thought Jan Van Riebeeck was the First King of ENGLAND.

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