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King who? Poll’s shock winner as little-known Athelstan is named our top monarch 

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King who? Poll’s shock winner as little-known Athelstan is named our top monarch

  • History buffs cast 84,000 votes in poll run by Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook on their podcast The Rest Is History
  • Mr Holland said: ’ It’s like Emma Raducanu going all the way at the US Open’










England’s greatest monarch – you might think it’s a penalty shoot-out between the two Elizabeths and Victoria. But then there’s the Henrys V and VIII to consider.

But Athelstan? Really?

Wouldn’t a few people suspect that’s the name of a former Soviet socialist republic?

Indeed not, the Anglo-Saxon’s been declared the winner of a poll run by historians Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook on their podcast, The Rest Is History.

King of kings: Athelstan is tops

King of kings: Athelstan is tops

It saw 84,000 votes cast by history buffs as monarchs throughout the centuries competed in a knockout tournament.

Athelstan was the king who defeated the Vikings and united England for the first time.

But despite his considerable achievements, relatively few people have heard of him.

Athelstan, lost in the past 

Born in 894, Athelstan was grandson of Alfred the Great, legendary cake-burner and King of Wessex.

Wily Athelstan married off his four half-sisters to powerful European rulers to cement his rule.

Buried at Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire in 939, his remains were lost during the Reformation.

That is until the sovereign beat all other kings and queens of England – including front-runner ‘Good Queen Bess’, Elizabeth I – to be crowned England’s greatest monarch in the podcast poll.

The voting was conducted on Twitter with Athelstan defeating Elizabeth I in the final by 50.5 per cent to 49.5 per cent.

To get to the final, Athelstan beat Queen Victoria, King Edward III and William the Conqueror.

Mr Holland said: ‘I thought it was going to be a walkover for Elizabeth. I’m really surprised. It’s like Emma Raducanu going all the way at the US Open. Unexpected.

‘Athelstan was one of the founding fathers of England. I think people tend to assume that England has always existed.

‘He was a great conqueror, but he was much more than that.’

Athelstan, who reigned from 925 to 939 AD, united the country in the year 927 after merging the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex and driving the Vikings out of Northumbria in the first two years of his reign. 

In 937, at the Battle of Brunanburh, Athelstan defeated the combined invasion forces of the kings of Scotland and Dublin.

Sovereign Athelstan beat all other kings and queens of England – including front-runner ‘Good Queen Bess’, Elizabeth I – to be crowned England’s greatest monarch in the podcast poll

Sovereign Athelstan beat all other kings and queens of England – including front-runner ‘Good Queen Bess’, Elizabeth I – to be crowned England’s greatest monarch in the podcast poll

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