On Edward's death his realm appears to have been divided with the Mercians recognising Æthelstan and the West Saxons recognising his brother, Ælfweard. Ælfweard would however be dead within weeks of his father and Æthelstan was inaugurated as king of all of Edward's lands, being crowned on the 4th September 925, having finally eliminated any remaining resistance to his succession.
“…a great battle, lamentable and terrible was cruelly fought... in which fell uncounted thousands of the Northmen. ...And on the other side, a multitude of Saxons fell; but Æthelstan, the king of the Saxons, obtained a great victory".
At home Æthelstan centralised government, increasing control over the production of charters and summoning leading figures from distant areas to his councils. These meetings were also attended by rulers from outside his territory, especially Welsh kings, who thus acknowledged his overlordship. More legal texts survive from his reign than from any other 10th-century English king. They show his concern about widespread robberies, and the threat they posed to social order. His legal reforms built on those of his grandfather, Alfred the Great.
Æthelstan died at Gloucester on October 27th 939 and was buried at Malmesbury Abbey. He had no legitimate children and was succeeded by his by his half-brother Edmund, then aged 18. His empire collapsed in little more than a year after his death when the Viking chief Olaf Guthfrithson sailed from Ireland and seized Northumbria and the Mercian Danelaw. Edmund would rule between 939 and 946 and his brother Eadred between 946 and 955; most their reigns would be spent attempting to regain control of the lost lands. This would not be achieved until 954.
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