Clio Edition 4 - page 36

36
T
his picture was illustrated
in 1923 by Alfred Pearse- (1855-
1933), a British cartoonist and
illustrator- who would occasionally go by
the pseudonym “A Patriot”, as a result of
the patriotic theme of many of his works.
This particular illustration depicts King
Æthelstan of England- defeating the
combined forces of Olaf Guthfrithson,
King of Dublin, King Constantin II of
Scotland and King Owen of Strathclyde-
at the Battle of Brunanburgh- in 937.
The battle was fought 10 years after
Æthelstan had conquered York in 927,
the final Viking stronghold in Anglo-
Saxon England, officially making him
the first King of all “Englaland”.
Contextually, there was a surge in
patriotism after the Allied victory in the
First World War, so Pearse was perhaps
playing on this sentiment, when creating
this work. In Pearse’s illustration;
Æthelstan is pictured on horseback,
head and shoulders above the other
soldiers, giving him an innate position of
power. He is also holding his sword aloft,
gleaming with the blood of his enemies,
and rallying his warriors to him to make
one last charge into the ranks of his
enemies. By glorifying Æthelstan in such
a way, Pearse ensures that any observer’s
eye is drawn to the King, connoting the
might of England; this creates a symbol
which patriots could rally behind and
draw inspiration from. Equally, the
Allied invaders are shown to be weak
and, in some cases, are fleeing from the
The
Story of a
Picture:
‘Englaland’s’
Finest
By Alexia
Claydon and
Dom Hogan
The Battle of Brunanburh,
AD 937
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