Æthelstan A



"Æthelstan A" (/ˈæθəlstænˈeɪ/) is the name given by historians to an unknown scribe who drafted charters (or diplomas), by which the king made grants of land, for King Æthelstan of England between 928 and 935. They are an important source for historians as they provide far more information than other charters of the period, showing the date and place of the grant, and having an unusually long list of witnesses, including Welsh kings and occasionally kings of Scotland and Strathclyde.

The "Æthelstan A" charters commence shortly after King Æthelstan conquered Northumbria in 927, making him the first king to rule the whole of England. The diplomas give the king titles such as "King of the English" and "King of the Whole of Britain", and this is seen by historians as part of a rhetoric which reflected his master's claim for a new status, higher than previous West Saxon kings.

The diplomas are written in elaborate Latin known as the hermeneutic style, which became dominant in Anglo-Latin literature from the mid-tenth century and a hallmark of the English Benedictine Reform. Opinion of his style varies greatly. Some scholars have labelled it "pretentious" and "almost impenetrable", while others deem it "poetic" and "as enduringly fascinating as it is complex".

"Æthelstan A" ceased to draft charters after 935, and his successors returned to a simpler style, suggesting that he was working on his own rather than being a member of a royal scriptorium.
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