Alfred the Great (b.849 r.871-899)
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Alfred the Great (b.849 r.871-899)

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Viewed in retrospect, and seeing what Alfred had to put-up with - as if the Danes weren't enough, he was also up against the witenagemot and the British working carl - his achievements were pretty terrific. For which reason posterity has also nicknamed him Alfred the Great.
Nicholas Bentley, Golden Sovereigns.

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Alfred the Great (b.849 r.871-899)

At this point in history, England, as we know it, was divided up into separate kingdoms and Wessex was the most powerful. Alfred succeeded to the throne of Wessex upon the death of his brother in 871, and is the only English monarch to have ever been popularly accepted as - 'Great'.

Alfred's succession came at a time when Viking invasions were rising to a crescendo, and so he had to struggle for survival. As a result, his reign saw continual battles with the Danes who had conquered vast territories in Eastern England. Having routed the Great Army of the Vikings in 878, Alfred signed the Treaty of Wedmore dividing England along a line running roughly north-west from London to Chester - Alfred ruled south of this line until 886 when he finally captured London and became accepted by the Saxons and the Danes as King of all England.

Alfred is credited with having embarked on a vast programme of fortification and advancing of the country's defensive frontiers by creating a naval force to patrol the coasts - thus he is honoured as the father of the Royal Navy. He also introduced legislation and administration as significant parts of a King's duties (these had not been previously), reformed and codified Saxon Law, and instigated the compilation of the famous Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a history of the people of England. Alfred is also noted as the 1st monarch to style himself as King of England on his coins. His chief law was 'do not do to others what you would not want done to you'. All in all, it seems he was a very knowledgeable, capable and just ruler who was held in high regard by his people.


There was not English Armour left,
Nor any English thing,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To be an English King.
- G.K. Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse.

From his cradle a longing for wisdom before all things and among all the pursuits of this present life, combined with his noble birth, filled the noble temper of his mind; but alas he remained ignorant of letters until his twelfth year.
- Asser, 'Life of King Alfred', translated by L.C. Jane.

We are given (by Asser) a vision of a man of strong imagination, anxious and temperamental; always afraid of himself, afraid of illness and incapacity to the point of hypochondria, aware of a larger world than he himself lived in, desperately keen to live in it.
- Christopher Brooke, 'The Saxon Norman Kings', 1963 Advanced Category Search

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