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Why was Kingston chosen to crown the first 'King of all England'
9:15am Wednesday 21st August 2013 in News
Kingston's town centre has changed a bit since 925 AD and seen its fair share of important visitors.
But it is unlikely to top its moment witnessing the destiny of a group of warring lords being changed for ever by the crowning of a King of all of England.
King Athelstan's rise to the throne was remembered last night on part three of a BBC 4 documentary series - King Alfred and the Anglo Saxons.
After a skyline shot of the Kingston riverside and footage of rowers on the Thames the action moved to All Saints Church to explain why a young Athelstan - King of Wessex and fresh from defeating a rival - chose Kingston to be crowned.
Rev Jonathan Wilkes, told the programme: "Kingston had the only bridge across the Thames, other than London Bridge, up until about 1750 I think, and so presumably the King of Wessex comes to the edges of his kingdom so he can then bring his lords over from Mercia and then begin to join together all that national story."
Presenter Michael Wood said: "If you're bidding to be King of all the English then a place on the boundary between the two key kingdoms - the West Saxons and the Mercians - would be ideal."
The coronation, on September 4, 925, was said to have been performed on a wooden platform in the market place, in front of the church.
Wood described rituals, including anointing and gifts of a sword, ring, rod and sceptre.
But the programme said the crowning was something new.
Athelstan was the first King to be shown wearing a crown, Wood said.
Inside a gloomy All Saints lit by candlelight, the post-banquet moment Athelstan symbolically freed a slave was also narrated.
Rev Wilkes said: "It was fun to do and Michael Wood and the crew were terrific."
It was unclear if historian Tom Holland was using a touch of irony when, prompted by the programme, he said on Twitter: "Kingston has the best waxwork of Athelstan you could hope to see".
Kingston Museum has a model of the King, complete with purple cloak and blonde wig.
The town's role in the crowning is commemorated in many ways including King Athelstan school and Athelstan recreation ground.
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