Little Known British Kings in History: King Athelstan, King Edmund, King Robert II, King William II

Fareeha Arshad

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British history is filled with countless Kings and Queens— both good and bad. Many are remembered even today because of the revolutionary ideas that changed many lives. However, a few royals were not given the attention they deserved, primarily because of their short time on the throne. Let’s look at some of such little-known monarchs from British history who did not get the credits they deserved.

1. King Athelstan

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In 924, after his father’s death, King Edward, Athelstan, became the new king of Mercia. Within a year, Wessex too came under his rule. Then, following his grandfather Alfred the Great’s footsteps, Athelstan conquered the Kingdom of York and became the first-ever king of entire England by 927.

Athelstan did not stop there: he conquered Scotland by 934. With the rapid expansion of his kingdom, new enemies arose that resulted in many battles. One of the biggest decisive battles Athelstan fought and won was the Battle of Brunanburh, after which he became the most powerful king of Britain.

Athelstan was perhaps the most active monarch of his time. No other king in the first century passed out so many laws as he did. He made efforts in currency reformation; however, because of the rampant instances of robbery and mobocracy, he could not enforce many promising laws. Also, he was the first king who tried to establish a common English identity across his kingdom.

2. King Edmund Ironside

Also known as Edmund Ironside, Edmund II was the third in the line to the throne in Anglo Saxon England. In 1015, when the Viking King Cnut invaded their happy kingdom, many well-known earls betrayed King Aethelred and shook hands with the Viking King. Wanting to control the situation, Edmund gathered an army against Cnut and the traitors. However, he did not have many allies against the Vikings and therefore was very weak against them.

A year later, when King Athelred died, only Edmund remained as the successor. After coming to power, he realized that the Danish forces were nearing his kingdom. Quickly, he went to Wessex to gather a strong army that proved successful against the Danish soldiers. Not much later, he was successful at conquering Brentford.

With so many victories piling up, many English earls returned and accepted Edmund as their sole king. He took this opportunity to chase the Viking King’s retreating army towards Kent. However, things were not really in Edmund’s favour.

Once again, one of his commanders, Eadric, betrayed him and left the battlefield, making them vulnerable to attacks. Seeing this opening, Cnut attacked the English army brutally and needless to say, Edmund lost terribly. Not much later, he passed away, bringing an end to his short one year rule.

3. King Robert II

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In 1371, Robert II of the Stuart Dynasty became the new King of Scotland. He ruled Scotland until 1603, and by 1714, he ruled over complete Britain. By the time he had come into power, he was already very experienced in handling governmental affairs.

To get into the good books of the nobles of his court, Robert II gave them more power than ever given to them before, granting the nobles and their sons more significant portions of land and a large sum of money.

Also, the new Scottish King would often visit almost all parts of the country and his court to get the support and respect of the locals from everywhere. Not just the local support, but Robert II was also successful at forming relations with France, which proved to be very beneficial later when they became strong allies for the English.

However, Robert’s hold on the power did not last long. Soon tensions escalated between Scotland and England, and he tried everything to keep them under control. But he was unsuccessful at doing so. Subsequently, he was stripped of most of his power. Instead, his son became the lieutenant of Scotland and led the country into war.

4. King William II ‘Rufus’

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In 1087, when King William the Conqueror was terribly sick and realized that his time had come, he declared his third son, William Rufus as his successor, while his first son Robert was declared the Duke of Normandy.

Though Rufus was the first choice of the previous ruler as his inheritor, Rufus was nowhere close to being an ideal king. However, he was the best candidate among his brothers. Rufus ruled the English throne for thirteen years despite protests from his elder brothers. He successfully defended his kingdom against Scotland and secured the borders. Also, he hoarded a lot of money from the commoners by increasing the taxes.

Rufus also made a large sum of profits from old regulations his father had made. For instance, the free investiture rule allowed the automatic transfer of incomes because of empty bishoprics. This act, in particular, made him unpopular among many people for years to come. Even when he died in 1100, most people were happy for him to be gone.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I write about current affairs, history, science, and lifestyle.

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