King Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons

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Aethelstan - The First King of England

Series 1 - Episode 3 Aethelstan - The First King of England

Tuesday 8pm - 9pm BBC Four


Michael Wood’s stirring trilogy concludes with a portrait of Aethelstan, the forgotten man of history, but one who put flesh on the bones of his grandfather Alfred’s dream: a kingdom for all the English.

The first monarch in British history to be depicted wearing a crown (at his coronation in 925), Aethelstan (“noble stone”) was politically shrewd, handsome, nerveless. Michael Wood and a range of scarves follow in the footsteps of a man keen to unite a nation through ideology, legislation and culture. But for this warrior king who was also a Christian man, intermittent shows of force – against the Vikings, Scotland, even perhaps his own brother Edwin – cost him peace of mind.

Extra par for app: This atmospheric series has let the facts create their own drama; fancy words are all well and good, but Wood simply tells the story, and extrapolates only where necessary. He still stands head and shoulders above his fellow TV historians.


Michael Wood explores the role of Alfred the Great's grandson Aethelstan in creating a kingdom of all England. The presenter travels to Devon, Cumbria, Scotland and Rome to reveal why he believes the English monarch was one of the greatest, and tells the tale of the ruler's learning and law-making, including his development of a national coinage and his defeat of the Vikings and Scots in the Anglo-Saxon Great War. Last in the series.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Michael Wood
Series Producer Rebecca Dobbs