This Order is a tribute to the Spirit of King Athelstan. Athelstan was the first king of all of the English and grandson of Alfred the Great. He reigned between 925 and 939 and was a distinguished and courageous soldier who pushed the boundaries of the kingdom further than anyone had done before.
Legend relates that in the year 926 a Grand Assembly of masons at York was convened by King Athelstan's half brother Prince Edwin, at the king's behest, whereat the great traditions of symbolic and operative masonry were constituted, revived, or organized, and a new code of laws for the governing of the Craft instituted.
In 927, Athelstan took York from the Danes and forced the submission of King Constantine of Scotland and of the northern kings. All five of the Welsh kings agreed to pay a huge annual tribute to him, and he eliminated opposition in Cornwall. In 937, at the battle of Brunanburh, Athelstan led a force drawn from Britain and defeated the king of Scotland in alliance with the Welsh and Danes from Dublin.
Under Athelstan, law codes strengthened royal control over his large kingdom. Currency was regulated to control silver content and fraudsters were penalised. Buying and selling was largely confined to the burghs, encouraging town life. Areas of settlement in the Midlands and Danish towns were consolidated into shires. Overseas, Athelstan built alliances by marrying off four of his half-sisters to various rulers in Western Europe. He was also a great collector of artworks and religious relics, which he gave away to many of his followers and also to churches in order to gain the support of the clergy.
Athelstan died in 939 at the height of his power, and was buried in Malmesbury Abbey. He had been an ardent supporter and endower of the Abbey, and it is fitting that he should be buried there, although in subsequent years the body was removed and only an empty 14th century tomb remains.