Where to begin?

As I explain in my description of this site, my goal is to read biographies of all of the ruling kings and queens of England and Great Britain, from the beginning right down to the present day.

Which brings up an interesting question, where should such an effort begin?

Part of the problem is that for many of the early monarchs of post-Roman Britain we simply don’t have any biographies of them, in large part because we don’t have the sources to support them. For many of those kings, what we know could barely make for a paragraph-length entry in an encyclopedia, much less a book. As a result, there’s not much to review.

One obvious place to begin a project such as mine is with Alfred the Great. He was one of the outstanding kings of British history, and one that I would like to learn much more about. In the end, though, I decided not to start with him. This was in part because though Alfred was a momentous king, in the end he only ruled over a portion of England, not the complete territory. Plus, it felt a little unfair to his predecessors to begin with him just because he benefited from so much attention during his time and afterward.

Ultimately these two factors defined where I am starting my project. My first two reviews are going to be of books that encompass the entire late Anglo-Saxon monarchy, including the kings not covered in a biography. After that, I will focus on the first king who ruled over all of the territory of England as we know it today: Alfred’s grandson, Æthelstan. From him I will cover each of his successors, skipping the six — Edmund, Eadred, Eadwig, Edward the Martyr, Sweyn Forkbeard, and Harold Harefoot — about whom no biography is available. Once I get to Edward the Confessor, though, there will be an unbroken line of kings about whom I will have plenty to read. It will be a long way to the end, with plenty to learn in the process!