Anglo Saxon England was lucky enough to have a series of capable, though often shortlived, kings after the death of Alfred. The story is covered in episodes 10-12 in the History of England podcasts. The Podcast here talks about the reign of the most famous of that series of leaders – Athelstan the Glorious.
A short history of the English Reconquest
Alfred’s son, Edward the Elder, inherited the throne of Wessex. And during his reign all of Mercia and East Anglia are brought under the reign of the Anglo Saxons. In this he is helped by Athelflaed, the Lady of Mercia, a woman who managed to break the traditions that held women back from positions of power. Athelflaed led the reconquest of Mercia, while her brother dealt with the East.
Although early on in Edward’s reign the Vikings again threaten to overrun London and the South East, in the longer term they are divided and therefore weaker than the unified Wessex and Kent. And as they conquer the Danish kingdoms, they do it in the name not of Wessex, Mercia, Kent, east Anglia, Sussex – the old name of the heptarchy; they do it in the name of England, and unified state.
Athelstan the Glorious
The apogee of this movement is Edward’s son, Athelstan. by the time of his death in 940, he has brought Northumbria into the new England as well. And at the Battle of Brunanburgh he established his supremacy also over the Scots. Brunanburgh also gave rise to one of the earliest poem in Anglo Saxon. You can see the text by following this link, or see a slightly odd looking bloke on You Tube reciting it in Old English here - I promise you, you’ll love to hear the cadence of the original!