King Athelstan, 895 – 939 AD

Athelstan is generally regarded as the first true King of England, and the father of medieval England. His achievements go far beyond merely asserting a strong central rule; he laid the foundation for monastic reform, established a thorough and efficient system of government, justice, and administration, and helped make England one of the wealthiest nations in Europe.

Even in his lifetime Athelstan was highly regarded as a strong military leader, a scholar, and a devout ruler.

Tradition has it that King Athelstan stopped at Beverley on his way north in 934 so that he could pray for success in battle at the shrine of John of Beverley. Four years later he took the banner of St John into battle against the Scots at Brunanburh. In recognition of his success he gave a number of privileges to Beverley including the right of sanctuary. Beverley became a place where fugitives could find a safe place until justice took its course.

After King Athelstan, most medieval kings visited Beverley at least once to venerate the relics of Saint John.