Edgar the Peaceable Unites English Kingdoms
Several early kings can lay claim to uniting England, not least of them Alfred the Great , to whose line Edgar the Peaceable belonged. Re-uniting Wessex with Mercia and Northumbria, and avoiding conflict with the Danes, Edgar’s reign was the apogee of Anglo- Saxon England.
The 10th century was, to state the obvious, a violent time: Edgar’s father had died by the knife; his son Edward would be murdered in the same way, possibly by his own step-mother, Edgar’s second wife (whose previous husband died ‘in a hunting accident’, Edgar’s spear in his back). It is in this context that Edgar succeeded in bringing relative peace to England, reaching an accommodation as regards the Danelaw in the east whilst building up a great naval force to prevent further Viking incursions.
Born in 943, Edgar was younger than his brother Edwy who came to power in his teens. When Edgar himself reached the grand old age of 14 he either seized or was given control over Northumbria and Mercia. On Edwy’s death in 959 Edgar, still only 16, united the three great English kingdoms.
His reign consolidated this situation, the king working with St Dunstan, successively Bishop of Worcester , London and Canterbury , to reform religious practice as the mortar to secure his kingdom within. Continuing the analogy he brought in the shire divisions as the small but easily managed bricks rather than relying on the unstable great stones of the old kingdoms. By military shows of strength he engineered a gathering at Chester where the kings of between six and eight kingdoms around his own pledged obedience to him, a protective wrapper for England; and in 973 a magnificent coronation in Bath demonstrated his authority.
Edgar’s actions meant England remained a single unit; but not an undisputed one: every succession after his was contested until William the Conqueror established Norman rule.
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