Ælfrēd "se Grēata", Englalandes Cyning (849 - 899) MP 100

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Nicknames: "Alfred The Great", "King Alfred", "Ælfrēd "se Grēata"", "Englalandes Cyning;", "King of the Anglo-Saxons", "King of Wessex"
Birthplace: Wessex Kingdom, Modern Wantage, Berkshire, England
Death: Died in Winchester, Hampshire, England
Cause of death: Illness. Possibly Crohn's disease.
Occupation: King of England from 871 to 899, King of England, Married ABT.868. He was the 4th son., ALIA: The Great Title: King Of England 871 - 899, King 871 - 899 of West Saxons (Wessex) and Overlord of All England, King West Saxons, Kung av England, Kung, King
Managed by: Jason Scott Wills
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About Ælfrēd "se Grēata", Englalandes Cyning

Alfred the Great (Old English: Ælfrēd, Ælfrǣd, "elf counsel") (849 – 26 October 899) was King of Wessex from 871 to 899. Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English monarch to be accorded the epithet "the Great".[1] Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself "King of the Anglo-Saxons". Details of his life are described in a work by the Welsh scholar and bishop Asser. Alfred was a learned man who encouraged education and improved his kingdom's legal system and military structure. He is regarded as a saint by some Catholics, but has never been officially canonized.[2] The Anglican Communion venerates him as a Christian hero, with a feast day of 26 October,[3] and he may often be found depicted in stained glass in Church of England parish churches.

Further Reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great

http://www.britroyals.com/kings.asp?id=alfred

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Who_was_Alfred_the_Great

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01309d.htm

http://satucket.com/lectionary/Alfred.htm

http://historymedren.about.com/od/alfredthegreat/a/bio_alfred.htm

-------------------- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great

Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English monarch still to be accorded the epithet "the Great".[1] Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself "King of the Anglo-Saxons". Details of his life are described in a work by the 10th century Welsh scholar and bishop Asser. Alfred was a learned man who encouraged education and improved his kingdom's legal system and military structure. He is regarded as a saint by some Catholics, but has never been officially canonized.[2] The Anglican Communion venerates him as a Christian hero, with a feast day of 26 October,[3] and he may often be found depicted in stained glass in Church of England parish churches.

In 868, Alfred married Ealhswith, daughter of Ealdorman of the Gaini (who is also known as Aethelred Mucil), who was from the Gainsborough region of Lincolnshire. She appears to have been the maternal granddaughter of a King of Mercia. They had five or six children together, including Edward the Elder, who succeeded his father as king, Æthelflæd, who would become Queen of Mercia in her own right, and Ælfthryth who married Baldwin II the Count of Flanders. -------------------- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great

Alfred the Great (Old English: Ælfrēd, Ælfrǣd, "elf counsel"; 848/849 – 26 October 899) was King of Wessex from 871 to 899.

Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English monarch still to be accorded the epithet "the Great". Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself "King of the Anglo-Saxons". Details of his life are described in a work by the 10th century Welsh scholar and bishop Asser. Alfred was a learned man who encouraged education and improved his kingdom's legal system and military structure. He is regarded as a saint by some Catholics, but has never been officially canonized. The Anglican Communion venerates him as a Christian hero, with a feast day of 26 October, and he may often be found depicted in stained glass in Church of England parish churches.

-------------------- BIOGRAPHY: Alfred the Great, son of Ethelwulf, succeeded his brother, Ethelred I., reigning from 871 to 900. Alfred began as second-in-command to his eldest brother, King Ethelred I. There were no jealousies between them, but a marked difference of temperament. Ethelred inclined toward a religious viewpoint that faith and prayer were the prime agencies by which the heathen would be overcome. Alfred, though also devout, laid the emphasis upon policy and arms. He was born in 849 and died in 900. At twenty-four he became King. He married Lady Alswitha (Ealhswith), daughter of Ethelan, the Earl of Mercia, lineally descended from Crioda, 1st Earl of Mercia, who died in 594. She died in 904. Alfred was regarded as one of the noblest monarchs in British history. No name in English history is so justly popular as his. That he taught his people to defend themselves and defeat their enemies, is the least of the many claims to our grateful admiration; he did much more than this; he launched his people upon a great advance in civilization, and showed a horde of untaught countrymen that there were other and worthier pursuits than war or the pleasure of the table. "He was indeed one of those highly gifted men that would seem to be especially raised up by Providence to protect and advance his people." (Wurts, Vol I, p. 171). Alfred was born at Wantage, in Berkshire, in the year 849, ascended the throne in 871 at the age of 23, and reigned for thirty years. Young Alfred, according to the historian Asser, Bishop of Sherborne, was a comely person and of a sweeter disposition than his older brothers and consequently became the favorite of both his parents and was sent by them to Rome, while still a child in order that he might be anointed king by the Pope. But though Ethelwulf showed this especial instance of regard for his son, he altogether neglected his education, and the young prince in his twelfth year had not learned to read or write. But if he could not read for himself, he nevertheless loved to listen to the rude but inspiring strains of Saxon poetry when recited by others, and had he not been a king and statesman, he might easily have been a poet. In 871, Alfred succeeded as king, at a period when the whole country was suffering under the ravages of the Danes, and the general misery was yet further increased by a raging pestilence, along with the general dissentions of the people. Alfred now for the first time took the field against these ruthless invaders with such skill and courage, that he was able to maintain the struggles till a truce was concluded between the combatants. Neither was this the worst of the evils that beset the Saxon prince. Any compact he might make with one party, had no influence whatever upon others of their countrymen, who had different leaders and different interests. No sooner had he made terms with one horde of pirates than England was invaded by a new force of them under Rollo; and when he had compelled these to abandon Wessex, he was attacked by fresh bands of Danes settled in other parts of England. So long, however, as they ventured to meet him on the open field, his skill secured him the victory; till, taught by repeated defeats, they had recourse to other tactics. That is, suddenly to land and ravage a apart of the country, and when a force opposed them, they retired to their ships, and passed to some other part, which in a like manner they ravaged, and then retired as before, until the country, completely harassed, pillaged and wasted by their incursions, was no longer able to resist them. Then they ventured safely to enter and to establish themselves. Therefore, Alfred, finding a navy necessary, built England's first fleet. After much fighting over the years he at last routed the Danes at Ethendune (Edington) in 878 with so much slaughter that they were glad to obtain peace on such terms as he chose to dictate. As merciful as he was good and brave, he then, instead of killing them, proposed peace on condition that they should altogether depart from the western part of England and that Guthrun, their leader, should become a Christian, in remembrance of the religion which taught Alfred, the conqueror, to forgive the enemy who had so injured him. Thereupon Guthrun embraced Christianity and became to adopted son of god-child of Alfred. Encouraging the arts and sciences, he founded Oxford University. He made London the capital of England, fortified it in 886, and carried on a defensive war with the Danes from 894 until they withdrew in 897. He organized judicial and educational reforms, compiled a code of laws, rebuilt the schools and invited learned monks from the continent and from Wales to his court to teach the young men there. He was himself a man of much learning; he translated from Latin into Anglo-Saxon parts of the ecclesiastical writings of Bede and others. He was the author of the famous Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the first history written in any modern language. He died October 28, 901, aged 52. --------------------

   WIKIPEDIA 1:
   Alfred the Great
   King of the West Saxons, but branded himself as the King of the Anglo-Saxons
   Reign 23 April 871 — 26 October 899
   Predecessor Ethelred of Wessex
   Successor Edward the Elder
   Consort Ealhswith (852 — 905)
   Issue
   Aelfthryth
   Ethelfleda
   Edward the Elder
   Full name Ælfr?d of Wessex
   Royal House House of Wessex
   Father Ethelwulf of Wessex
   Mother Osburga
   Born c. 849 Wantage, Berkshire
   Died 26 October 899
   Burial c. 1100 Winchester, Hampshire
   Alfred (Old English: Ælfr?d) (c. 849 – 26 October 899) was king of the southern Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex from 871 to 899. Alfred is noted for his defence of the kingdom against the Danish Vikings, becoming the only English King to be awarded the epithet 'the Great' (although not English, Canute the Great was another King of England given this title by the Danes). Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself 'King of the Anglo-Saxons'. Details of his life are discussed in a work by the Welsh scholar, Asser. A learned man, Alfred encouraged education and improved the kingdom's law system.
   Childhood
   Alfred was born sometime between 847 and 849 at Wantage in the present-day ceremonial county of Oxfordshire (though historically speaking in the historic county of Berkshire). He was the fourth son, and fifth child, of King Ethelwulf of Wessex, by his first wife, Osburga.
   At five years of age, Alfred is said to have been sent to Rome where, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV who "anointed him as king." Victorian writers interpreted this as an anticipatory coronation in preparation for his ultimate succession to the throne of Wessex. However, this coronation could not have been foreseen at the time, since Alfred had three living elder brothers. A letter of Leo IV shows that Alfred was made a 'consul:' a misinterpretation of this investiture, deliberate or accidental, could explain later confusion.[1] It may also be based on Alfred later having accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Rome and spending some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, around 854–855. In 858, Ethelwulf died and Wessex was ruled by three of Alfred's brothers in succession.
   Asser tells the story about how as a child Alfred's mother offered a volume of Anglo Saxon poetry to the first of her children able to read it. This story may be true, or it may be a myth designed to illustrate the young Alfred's love of learning.
   Royal prince and military commander
   During the short reigns of his two eldest brothers, Ethelbald and Ethelbert, Alfred is not mentioned. However, with the accession of the third brother, Ethelred I, in 866, the public life of Alfred began. It is during this period that Asser applies to him the unique title of 'secundarius,' which may indicate a position akin to that of the Celtic tanist, a recognized successor closely associated with the reigning monarch. It is possible that this arrangement was sanctioned by the Witenagemot, to guard against the danger of a disputed succession should Ethelred fall in battle. The arrangement of crowning a successor as co-king is well-known among Germanic tribes, such as the Swedes and Franks, with whom the Anglo-Saxons had close ties.
   In 868, Alfred, fighting beside his brother Ethelred, unsuccessfully attempted to keep the invading Danes out of the adjoining kingdom of Mercia. For nearly two years, Wessex itself was spared attacks. However, at the end of 870, the Danes arrived in his home land. The year that followed has been called "Alfred's year of battles". Nine general engagements were fought with varying fortunes, though the place and date of two of the battles have not been recorded. In Berkshire, a successful skirmish at the Battle of Englefield, on 31 December 870, was followed by a severe defeat at the Siege and Battle of Reading, on 4 January 871, and then, four days later, a brilliant victory at the Battle of Ashdown on the Berkshire Downs, possibly near Compton or Aldworth. Alfred is particularly credited with the success of this latter conflict. However, later that month, on 22 January, the English were again defeated at Basing and, on the following 22 March at 'Merton' (perhaps Marden in Wiltshire or Martin in Dorset). Two unidentified battles may also have occurred in between.
   King at war
   In April 871, King Ethelred died, most probably from wounds received at the Battle of Merton. Alfred succeeded to the throne of Wessex and the burden of its defence, despite the fact that Ethelred left two young sons. Although contemporary turmoil meant the accession of Alfred - an adult with military experience and patronage resources --over his nephews went unchallenged, he remained obliged to secure their property rights. While he was busy with the burial ceremonies for his brother, the Danes defeated the English in his absence at an unnamed spot, and then again in his presence at Wilton in May. Following this, peace was made and, for the next five years, the Danes were occupied in other parts of England. However, in 876, under their new leader, Guthrum, the enemy slipped past the English army and attacked Wareham in Dorset. From there, early in 877, and under the pretext of talks, they moved westwards and took Exeter in Devon. There, Alfred blockaded them and, a relieving fleet having been scattered by a storm, the Danes were forced to submit. They withdrew to Mercia, but, in January 878, made a sudden attack on Chippenham, a royal stronghold in which Alfred had been staying over Christmas, "and most of the people they reduced, except the King Alfred, and he with a little band made his way by wood and swamp, and after Easter he made a fort at Athelney, and from that fort kept fighting against the foe" (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle).
   A popular legend tells how, when he first fled to the Somerset Levels, Alfred was given shelter by a peasant woman who, unaware of his identity, left him to watch some cakes she had left cooking on the fire. Preoccupied with the problems of his kingdom, Alfred accidentally let the cakes burn and was taken to task by the woman upon her return. Upon realizing the king's identity, the woman apologised profusely, but Alfred insisted that he was the one who needed to apologise. From his fort at Athelney, a marshy island near North Petherton, Alfred was able to mount an effective resistance movement while rallying the local militia from Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire.
   Another story relates how Alfred disguised himself as a minstrel in order to gain entry to Guthrum's camp and discover his plans. This supposedly led to the Battle of Edington, near Westbury in Wiltshire. The result was a decisive victory for Alfred. The Danes submitted and, according to Asser, Guthrum, and twenty-nine of his chief men, received baptism when they signed the Treaty of Wedmore. As a result, England became split in two: the south-western half kept by the Saxons and the north-eastern half including London, thence known as the Danelaw, by the Vikings. By the following year (879), not only Wessex, but also Mercia, west of Watling Street, was cleared of the invaders.
   The tide had turned. For the next few years there was peace, the Danes being kept busy in Europe. A landing in Kent in 884 or 885 close to Plucks Gutter, though successfully repelled, encouraged the East Anglian Danes to rise up. The measures taken by Alfred to repress this uprising culminated in the taking of London in 885 or 886, and an agreement was reached between Alfred and Guthrum, known as the Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum. Once more, for a time, there was a lull, but in the autumn of 892 or 893, the Danes attacked again. Finding their position in Europe somewhat precarious, they crossed to England in 330 ships in two divisions. They entrenched themselves, the larger body at Appledore, Kent, and the lesser, under Haesten, at Milton also in Kent. The invaders brought their wives and children with them, indicating a meaningful attempt at conquest and colonization. Alfred, in 893 or 894, took up a position from where he could observe both forces. While he was in talks with Haesten, the Danes at Appledore broke out and struck north-westwards. They were overtaken by Alfred's eldest son, Edward, and defeated in a general engagement at Farnham in Surrey. They were obliged to take refuge on an island in the Hertfordshire Colne, where they were blockaded and ultimately compelled to submit. The force fell back on Essex and, after suffering another defeat at Benfleet, coalesced with Haesten's force at Shoebury.
   Alfred had been on his way to relieve his son at Thorney when he heard that the Northumbrian and East Anglian Danes were besieging Exeter and an unnamed stronghold on the North Devon shore. Alfred at once hurried westward and raised the Siege of Exeter. The fate of the other place is not recorded. Meanwhile the force under Haesten set out to march up the Thames Valley, possibly with the idea of assisting their friends in the west. But they were met by a large force under the three great ealdormen of Mercia, Wiltshire and Somerset, and made to head off to the north-west, being finally overtaken and blockaded at Buttington. Some identify this with Buttington Tump at the mouth of the Wye River, others with Buttington near Welshpool. An attempt to break through the English lines was defeated. Those who escaped retreated to Shoebury. Then after collecting reinforcements they made a sudden dash across England and occupied the ruined Roman walls of Chester. The English did not attempt a winter blockade, but contented themselves with destroying all the supplies in the neighbourhood. Early in 894 (or 895), want of food obliged the Danes to retire once more to Essex. At the end of this year and early in 895 (or 896), the Danes drew their ships up the Thames and Lea and fortified themselves twenty miles above London. A direct attack on the Danish lines failed, but later in the year, Alfred saw a means of obstructing the river so as to prevent the egress of the Danish ships. The Danes realised that they were out-manoeuvred. They struck off north-westwards and wintered at Bridgenorth. The next year, 896 (or 897), they gave up the struggle. Some retired to Northumbria, some to East Anglia. Those who had no connections in England withdrew to the Continent. The long campaign was over.
   Reorganisation
   After the dispersal of the Danish invaders, Alfred turned his attention to the increase of the royal navy, partly to repress the ravages of the Northumbrian and East Anglian Danes on the coasts of Wessex, partly to prevent the landing of fresh invaders. This is not, as often asserted, the beginning of the English navy. There had been earlier naval operations under Alfred. One naval engagement was certainly fought under Aethelwulf in 851, and earlier ones, possibly in 833 and 840. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, however, does credit Alfred with the construction of a new type of ship, built according to the king's own designs, "swifter, steadier and also higher/more responsive (hierran) than the others". However, these new ships do not seem to have been a great success, as we hear of them grounding in action and foundering in a storm. Nevertheless both the Royal Navy and the United States Navy claim Alfred as the founder of their traditions. The first vessel ever commissioned into the Continental Navy, precursor to the United States Navy, was named the Alfred.
   Alfred's main fighting force, the fyrd, was separated into two, "so that there was always half at home and half out" (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle). The level of organisation required to mobilise his large army in two shifts, of which one was feeding the other must have been considerable. The complexity which Alfred's administration had attained by 892 is demonstrated by a reasonably reliable charter whose witness list includes a thesaurius, cellararius and pincerna—treasurer, food-keeper and butler. Despite the irritation which Alfred must have felt in 893, when one division, which had "completed their call-up (stemn)", gave up the siege of a Danish army just as Alfred was moving to relieve them, this system seems to have worked remarkably well on the whole.
   Main article: Burh
   One of the weaknesses of pre-Alfredian defences had been that, in the absence of a standing army, fortresses were largely left unoccupied, making it very possible for a Viking force to quickly secure a strong strategic position. Alfred substantially upgraded the state of the defences of Wessex, by erecting fortified burhs (or boroughs) throughout the kingdom. During the systematic excavation of at least four of these (at Wareham, Cricklade, Lydford and Wallingford]) it has been demonstrated that "in every case the rampart associated by the excavators with the borough of the Alfredian period was the primary defence on the site" (Brooks). The obligations for the upkeep and defence of these and many other sites, with permanent garrisons, are further documented in surviving transcripts of the administrative manuscript known as the Burghal Hidage. Dating from, at least, within 20 years of Alfred's death, if not actually from his reign, it almost certainly reflects Alfredian policy. Comparison of town plans for Wallingford and Wareham with that of Winchester, shows "that they were laid out in the same scheme" (Wormald). Thus supporting the proposition that these newly established burhs were also planned as centres of habitation and trade as well as a place of safety in moments of immediate danger. Thereafter, the English population and its wealth was drawn into such towns where it was not only safer from Viking soldiers, but also taxable by the King.
   Alfred is thus credited with a significant degree of civil reorganization, especially in the districts ravaged by the Danes. Even if one rejects the thesis crediting the 'Burghal Hidage' to Alfred, what is undeniable is that, in the parts of Mercia acquired by Alfred from the Vikings, the shire system seems now to have been introduced for the first time. This is probably what prompted the legend that Alfred was the inventor of shires, hundreds and tithings. Alfred's care for the administration of justice is testified both by history and legend; and he has gained the popular title 'protector of the poor'. Of the actions of the Witangemot, we do not hear very much under Alfred. He was certainly anxious to respect its rights, but both the circumstances of the time and the character of the king would have tended to throw more power into his hands. The legislation of Alfred probably belongs to the later part of the reign, after the pressure of the Danes had relaxed. He also paid attention to the country's finances, though details are lacking.
   Foreign relations
   Asser speaks grandiosely of Alfred's relations with foreign powers, but little definite information is available. His interest in foreign countries is shown by the insertions which he made in his translation of Orosius. He certainly corresponded with Elias III, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and possibly sent a mission to India. Contact was also made with the Caliph in Baghdad. Embassies to Rome conveying the English alms to the Pope were fairly frequent. Around 890, Wulfstan of Haithabu undertook a journey from Haithabu on Jutland along the Baltic Sea to the Prussian trading town of Truso. Alfred ensured he reported to him details of his trip.
 # Alfred's relations to the Celtic princes in the western half of the Britain are clearer. Comparatively early in his reign, according to Asser, the southern Welsh princes, owing to the pressure on them of North Wales and Mercia, commended themselves to Alfred. Later in the reign the North Welsh followed their example, and the latter co-operated with the English in the campaign of 893 (or 894). That Alfred sent alms to Irish as well as to European monasteries may be taken on Asser's authority. The visit of the three pilgrim 'Scots' (i.e., Irish) to Alfred in 891 is undoubtedly authentic. The story that he himself in his childhood was sent to Ireland to be healed by Saint Modwenna, though mythical, may show Alfred's interest in that island. Date: 13 Mar 2007
  1. Note:
   WIKIPEDIA 2:
   Law: Code of Alfred, Doom book
   Alfred the Great’s most enduring work was his legal Code, reconciling the long established laws of the Christian kingdoms of Kent, Mercia and Wessex. These formed Alfred’s ‘’‘Deemings’‘’ or Book of ‘’‘Dooms’‘’ (Book of Laws). See: Doom book or the Code of Alfred. Sir. Winston Churchill observed that Alfred blended these with the Mosaic Code, the Christian principles of Celto-Brythonic Law and old Germanic customs.[2] F. N. Lee traced the parallels between Alfred’s Code and the Mosaic Code.[3] Churchill stated that Alfred’s Code was amplified by his successors and grew into the body of Customary Law administered by the Shire and The Hundred Courts. This led to the Charter of Liberties, Henry AD 1000. The Norman kings then undertook to respect this body of law under that title the "Laws of Edward the Confessor". Out of this emerged the Common Law which was re-confirmed in the Magna Carta of AD 1215.
   Religion and culture
   The history of the Church under Alfred is most obscure. The Danish inroads had tolled heavily upon it. The monasteries had been especial points of attack and, though Alfred founded two or three monasteries and brought foreign monks to England, there was no general revival of monasticism under him. To the ruin of learning and education wrought by the Danes, and the practical extinction of the knowledge of Latin even among the clergy, the preface to Alfred's translation into Old English of Pope Gregory's Pastoral Care bears eloquent if not impartial witness. It was to remedy these evils that he established a court school, after the example of Charlemagne; for this he imported scholars like Grimbald and John the Saxon from Europe and Asser from South Wales; for this, above all, he put himself to school, and made the series of translations for the instruction of his clergy and people, most of which yet survive. These belong unquestionably to the latter part of his reign, likely to the last four years, during which the chronicles are almost silent.
   The Alfred Jewel, found at North Petherton in 1693
   Apart from the lost Handboc or Encheiridion, which seems to have been merely a commonplace book kept by the king, the earliest work to be translated was the Dialogues of Gregory, a book greatly popular in the Middle Ages. In this case the translation was made by Alfred's great friend Werferth, Bishop of Worcester, the king merely furnishing a foreword. The next work to be undertaken was Gregory's Pastoral Care, especially for the good of the parish clergy. In this Alfred keeps very close to his original; but the introduction which he prefixed to it is one of the most interesting documents of the reign, or indeed of English history. The next two works taken in hand were historical, the Universal History of Orosius and Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People. The priority should likely be given to the Orosius, but the point has been much debated. In the Orosius, by omissions and additions, Alfred so remodels his original as to produce an almost new work; in the Bede the author's text is closely stuck to, no additions being made, though most of the documents and some other less interesting matters are omitted. Of late years doubts have been raised as to Alfred's authorship of the Bede translation. But the sceptics cannot be regarded as having proved their point.
   We come now to what is in many ways the most interesting of Alfred's works, his translation of The Consolation of Philosophy of Boethius, the most popular philosophical handbook of the middle ages. Here again Alfred deals very freely with his original and though the late Dr. G. Schepss showed that many of the additions to the text are to be traced not to Alfred himself, but to the glosses and commentaries which he used, still there is much in the work which is solely Alfred's and highly characteristic of his genius. It is in the Boethius that the oft-quoted sentence occurs: "My will was to live worthily as long as I lived, and after my life to leave to them that should come after, my memory in good works." The book has come down to us in two manuscripts only. In one of these the writing is prose, in the other alliterating verse. The authorship of the latter has been much disputed; but likely they also are by Alfred. In fact, he writes in the prelude that he first created a prose work and then used it as the basis for his poem, the Lays of Boethius, his crowning literary achievement. He spent a great deal of time working on these books, which he tells us he gradually wrote through the many stressful times of his reign to refresh his mind. Of the authenticity of the work as a whole there has never been any doubt.
   The last of Alfred's works is one to which he gave the name Blostman, i.e., "Blooms" or Anthology. The first half is based mainly on the Soliloquies of St Augustine of Hippo, the remainder is drawn from various sources, and contains much that is Alfred's own and highly characteristic of him. The last words of it may be quoted; they form a fitting epitaph for the noblest of English kings. "Therefore he seems to me a very foolish man, and truly wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is in the world, and ever wish and long to reach that endless life where all shall be made clear."
   Beside these works of Alfred's, the Saxon Chronicle almost certainly, and a Saxon Martyrology, of which fragments only exist, probably owe their inspiration to him. A prose version of the first fifty Psalms has been attributed to him; and the attribution, though not proved, is perfectly possible. Additionally, Alfred appears as a character in The Owl and the Nightingale, where his wisdom and skill with proverbs is attested. Additionally, The Proverbs of Alfred, which exists for us in a 13th century manuscript contains sayings that very likely have their origins partly with the king.
   Family
   In 868, Alfred married Ealhswith, daughter of Aethelred Mucill, who is called Ealdorman of the Gaini, the people from the Gainsborough region of Lincolnshire. She appears to have been the maternal granddaughter of a King of Mercia. They had five or six children together, including Edward the Elder, who succeeded his father as King of Wessex; Ethelfleda, who would become Queen of Mercia in her own right, and Aelfthryth (alias Elfrida) who married Baldwin II, Count of Flanders.
   Every English (but not Danish) monarch of England and subsequently every monarch of Great Britain and the United Kingdom (with the exception of William the Conqueror and his adversary Harold II) down to and including Queen Elizabeth II (and her own descendants) is directly descended from Alfred.
   Death
   Alfred died on 26 October 899. The year is not quite certain, but it was not 900 or 901 as were previously accepted. How he died is unknown. He was originally buried temporarily in the Old Minster in Winchester, then moved to the New Minster (perhaps built especially to receive his body). When the New Minster moved to Hyde, a little north of the city, in 1110, the monks transferred to Hyde Abbey along with Alfred's body. However, many question whether the remains moved Hyde really were Alfred's.[citation needed]
   Cultural references
   Literature and drama
   • Thomas Augustine Arne's Masque of Alfred (first public performance: 1745) is a masque about the king. It incorporates the song "Rule Britannia".
   • G. K. Chesterton's poetical epic The Ballad of the White Horse depicts Alfred uniting the fragmented Kingdoms of Britain to chase the northern invaders away from the island. It depicts Alfred as a divinely oriented leader waging holy war, in a similar way to Shakespeare's Henry V.
   • In C. Walter Hodges' juvenile novels The Namesake and The Marsh King, Alfred is an important character.
   • G. A. Henty wrote an historical novel The Dragon and the Raven, or The Days of King Alfred.
   • Joan Wolf's historical novel The Edge of Light (1990) is about life and times of Alfred the Great.
   • The historical fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay features Alfred in his novel The Last Light of the Sun (2004) thinly disguised under the name King Aeldred.
   • Bernard Cornwell's series of books The Saxon Stories (2004-, currently consisting of The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman and The Lords of the North) depicts Alfred's life and his struggle against the Vikings from the perspective of a Saxon raised by Danes.
   • A new biography of Alfred the Great by Justin Pollard was published by John Murray in 2005.
   • Alfred Duggan wrote an Historical Novel biography of Alfred, entitled "The King of Athelny". It is a mixture of uncontested facts, as well as some stories of less certain authenticity such as the burning of the cakes.
   Film
   Alfred was played by David Hemmings in the 1969 film Alfred the Great, co-starring Michael York as Guthrum. [1]
   Educational establishments
   • The University of Winchester was named 'King Alfred's College, Winchester' between 1840 and 2004, whereupon it was re-named 'University College Winchester'.
   • Alfred University, as well as Alfred State College located in Alfred, NY, are both named after the king.
   • In honour of Alfred, the University of Liverpool created a King Alfred Chair of English Literature.
   • University College, Oxford is erroneously said to have been founded by King Alfred.
   • King Alfred's Community and Sports College, a secondary school in Wantage, Oxfordshire. The Birthplace of Alfred
   • King's Lodge School, in Chippenham, Wiltshire is so named because King Alfred's hunting lodge is reputed to have stood on or near the site of the school.
   See also
   • Doom book
   • British military history
   • Kingdom of England
   • Lays of Boethius
   • Alfred Jewel
   References
   1. ^ Patrick Wormald, 'Alfred (848/9–899)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004).
   2. ^ Sir. W. Churchill: The Island Race, Corgi, London, 1964, II, p. 219.
   3. ^ F. N. Lee, King Alfred the Great and our Common Law Department of Church History, Queensland Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Brisbane, Australia, August 2000
   • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
   Bibliography
   • N.P. Brooks. (1971). The Development of Military Obligations in Eighth and Ninth Century England.
   • Sir Francis Palgrave. (1876). History of the Anglo-Saxons.
   • P. Wormald in J. Campbell (ed.). (1982). The Anglo-Saxons.
   • Justin Pollard (2005). Alfred the Great: the man who made England. John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-6665-7.
   • Alfred P. Smyth (2002). The Medieval Life of King Alfred the Great: A Translation and Commentary on the Text Attributed to Asser. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-69917-3.
   Preceded by Ethelred
   King of Wessex, from 878
   King of England 871–899
   Succeeded by Edward the Elder
   Preceded by Ethelred
   Bretwalda 871–899
   Succeeded by None
   ------------------------------------
   From Encyclopedia Britannica Online,
   Web Magazine title Alfred the Great:
   "Youngest son of King Æthelwulf, Alfred became King of Wessex during a time of constant Viking attack. He was driven into hiding by a Viking raid into Wessex, led by the Dane, Guthorm, and took refuge in the Athelney marshes in Somerset. There, he recovered sufficient strength to be able to defeat the Danes decisively at the Battle of Eddington. As a condition of the peace treaty which followed, Guthorm received Christian baptism and withdrew his forces from Wessex, with Alfred recognizing the Danish control over East Anglia and parts of Mercia. This partition of England, called the "Danelaw", was formalized by another treaty in 886.
   "Alfred created a series of fortifications to surround his kingdom and provide needed security from invasion. The Anglo-Saxon word for these forts, "burhs", has come down to us in the common place-name suffix, "bury." He also constructed a fleet of ships to augment his other defenses, and in so doing became known as the "Father of the English Navy." The reign of Alfred was known for more than military success. He was a codifier of law, a promoter of education and a supporter of the arts. He, himself, was a scholar and translated Latin books into the Anglo-Saxon tongue. ... After his death, he was buried in his capital city of Winchester, and is the only English monarch in history to carry the title, "the Great.""
   ------------------------
   Children
   1. EDWARD OF ENGLAND b: 875
   2. ALFTHRYTH b: ABT 877
   3. Ethelgiva b: BET 868 AND 899
   4. Ethelflead b: ABT 869
   5. Ethelweard b: ABT 880
   6. Elfreda 

Sources:

  1. Title: Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650
     Abbrev: Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists
     Author: Frederick Lewis Weis
     Publication: Genealogical Publishing Company,
     Repository:
     Media: Book
     Note: Prokasy Library
     Date: 1999
     Place: Baltimore, MD, USA
     Date: 1 Mar 2007
     Page: Line 1-15
  2. Title: Dynasties of the World: a chronological and genealogical handbook
     Abbrev: Dynasties of the World
     Author: John E. Morby
     Publication: Oxford University Press, 1989
     Repository:
     Media: Book
     Note: University of Georgia Library
     Date: 1989
     Place: Oxford, Oxfordshire, U.K.
     Date: 1 Mar 2007
     Page: Appendix B, p. 219
  3. Title: WIKIPEDIA
     Publication: www
     Date: 1 Jan 2008
     Page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great 

-------------------- 4th son, Reigned 871-901 -------------------- Alfred the Great (Old English: Ælfrēd, Ælfrǣd, "elf counsel"; 849 – 26 October 899) was King of Wessex from 871 to 899. Alfred successfully defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, and by his death had become the dominant ruler in England. He is the only English monarch to be accorded the epithet "the Great". Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself "King of the Anglo-Saxons". Details of his life are described in a work by the 10th century Welsh scholar and bishop Asser. Alfred was a learned and merciful man who encouraged education and improved his kingdom's legal system and military structure. Alfred was born in the village of Wanating, now Wantage, Oxfordshire. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex, by his first wife, Osburh. In 853, at the age of four, Alfred is said to have been sent to Rome where, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV who "anointed him as king". Victorian writers interpreted this as an anticipatory coronation in preparation for his ultimate succession to the throne of Wessex. However, his succession could not have been foreseen at the time, as Alfred had three living elder brothers. A letter of Leo IV shows that Alfred was made a "consul"; a misinterpretation of this investiture, deliberate or accidental, could explain later confusion. It may also be based on Alfred's later having accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Rome where he spent some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, around 854–855. On their return from Rome in 856, Æthelwulf was deposed by his son Æthelbald. With civil war looming, the magnates of the realm met in council to hammer out a compromise. Æthelbald would retain the western shires (i.e., traditional Wessex), and Æthelwulf would rule in the east. When King Æthelwulf died in 858, Wessex was ruled by three of Alfred's brothers in succession, Æthelbald, Æthelbert and Æthelred. Bishop Asser tells the story of how as a child Alfred won a prize of a volume of poetry in English, offered by his mother to the first of her children able to memorise it. Legend also has it that the young Alfred spent time in Ireland seeking healing. Alfred was troubled by health problems throughout his life. It is thought that he may have suffered from Crohn's disease.[citation needed] Statues of Alfred in Winchester and Wantage portray him as a great warrior. Evidence suggests he was not physically strong, and though not lacking in courage, he was more noted for his intellect than a warlike character. During the short reigns of the older two of his three elder brothers, Æthelbald of Wessex and Æthelberht of Wessex, Alfred is not mentioned. However, his public life began with the accession of his third brother, Æthelred of Wessex, in 866. It is during this period that Bishop Asser applied to him the unique title of "secundarius", which may indicate a position akin to that of the Celtic tanist, a recognised successor closely associated with the reigning monarch. It is possible that this arrangement was sanctioned by Alfred's father, or by the Witan, to guard against the danger of a disputed succession should Æthelred fall in battle. The arrangement of crowning a successor as royal prince and military commander is well known among other Germanic tribes, such as the Swedes and Franks, to whom the Anglo-Saxons were closely related. In 868, Alfred is recorded as fighting beside Æthelred in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the invading Danes led by Ivar the Boneless out of the adjoining Kingdom of Mercia.[5] However, at the end of 870, the Danes arrived in his homeland. The year which followed has been called "Alfred's year of battles". Nine engagements were fought with varying outcomes, though the place and date of two of these battles have not been recorded. In Berkshire, a successful skirmish at the Battle of Englefield on 31 December 870 was followed by a severe defeat at the siege and Battle of Reading by Ivar's brother Halfdan Ragnarsson on 5 January 871; then, four days later, Alfred won a brilliant victory at the Battle of Ashdown on the Berkshire Downs, possibly near Compton or Aldworth. Alfred is particularly credited with the success of this latter battle. However, later that month, on 22 January, the English were defeated at the Battle of Basing and, on the 22 March at the Battle of Merton (perhaps Marden in Wiltshire or Martin in Dorset), in which Æthelred was killed. The two unidentified battles may have occurred in between. In April 871, King Æthelred died, and Alfred succeeded to the throne of Wessex and the burden of its defence, despite the fact that Æthelred left two under-age sons, Æthelhelm and Æthelwold. This was in accordance with the agreement that Æthelred and Alfred had made earlier that year in an assembly at Swinbeorg. The brothers had agreed that whichever of them outlived the other would inherit the personal property that King Æthelwulf had left jointly to his sons in his will. The deceased's sons would receive only whatever property and riches their father had settled upon them and whatever additional lands their uncle had acquired. The unstated premise was that the surviving brother would be king. Given the ongoing Danish invasion and the youth of his nephews, Alfred's succession probably went uncontested. While he was busy with the burial ceremonies for his brother, the Danes defeated the English in his absence at an unnamed spot, and then again in his presence at Wilton in May. The defeat at Wilton smashed any remaining hope that Alfred could drive the invaders from his kingdom. He was forced, instead, to ‘make peace’ with them. The sources do not tell what the terms of the peace were. Bishop Asser claimed that the 'pagans' agreed to vacate the realm and made good their promise; and, indeed, the Viking army did withdraw from Reading in the autumn of 871 to take up winter quarters in Mercian London. Although not mentioned by Asser or by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Alfred probably also paid the Vikings cash to leave, much as the Mercians were to do in the following year. Hoards dating to the Viking occupation of London in 871/2 have been excavated at Croydon, Gravesend, and Waterloo Bridge; these finds hint at the cost involved in making peace with the Vikings. For the next five years, the Danes occupied other parts of England. In 876 under their new leader, Guthrum, the Danes slipped past the English army and attacked and occupied Wareham in Dorset. Alfred blockaded them but was unable to take Wareham by assault. Accordingly, he negotiated a peace which involved an exchange of hostages and oaths, which the Danes swore on a "holy ring" associated with the worship of Thor. The Danes, however, broke their word and, after killing all the hostages, slipped away under cover of night to Exeter in Devon. There, Alfred blockaded them, and with a relief fleet having been scattered by a storm, the Danes were forced to submit. They withdrew to Mercia, but, in January 878, made a sudden attack on Chippenham, a royal stronghold in which Alfred had been staying over Christmas, "and most of the people they killed, except the King Alfred, and he with a little band made his way by wood and swamp, and after Easter he made a fort at Athelney in the marshes of Somerset, and from that fort kept fighting against the foe". From his fort at Athelney, an island in the marshes near North Petherton, Alfred was able to mount an effective resistance movement, rallying the local militias from Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire. A popular legend, originating from 12th century chronicles,[12] tells how when he first fled to the Somerset Levels, Alfred was given shelter by a peasant woman who, unaware of his identity, left him to watch some cakes she had left cooking on the fire. Preoccupied with the problems of his kingdom, Alfred accidentally let the cakes burn. 870 was the low-water mark in the history of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. With all the other kingdoms having fallen to the Vikings, Wessex alone was still resisting. In the seventh week after Easter [4–10 May 878], around Whitsuntide, Alfred rode to ‘Egbert's Stone’ east of Selwood, where he was met by "all the people of Somerset and of Wiltshire and of that part of Hampshire which is on this side of the sea [that is, west of Southampton Water], and they rejoiced to see him". Alfred’s emergence from his marshland stronghold was part of a carefully planned offensive that entailed raising the fyrds of three shires. This meant not only that the king had retained the loyalty of ealdormen, royal reeves and king’s thegns (who were charged with levying and leading these forces), but that they had maintained their positions of authority in these localities well enough to answer his summons to war. Alfred’s actions also suggest a finely honed system of scouts and messengers. Alfred won a decisive victory in the ensuing Battle of Ethandun, which may have been fought near Westbury, Wiltshire. He then pursued the Danes to their stronghold at Chippenham and starved them into submission. One of the terms of the surrender was that Guthrum convert to Christianity; and three weeks later the Danish king and 29 of his chief men were baptised at Alfred's court at Aller, near Athelney, with Alfred receiving Guthrum as his spiritual son.[9] The "unbinding of the chrism" took place with great ceremony eight days later at the royal estate at Wedmore in Somerset, after which Guthrum fulfilled his promise to leave Wessex. There is no contemporary evidence that Alfred and Guthrum agreed upon a formal treaty at this time; the so-called Treaty of Wedmore is an invention of modern historians. The Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum, preserved in Old English in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (Manuscript 383), and in a Latin compilation known as Quadripartitus, was negotiated later, perhaps in 879 or 880, when King Ceolwulf II of Mercia was deposed. That treaty divided up the kingdom of Mercia. By its terms the boundary between Alfred’s and Guthrum’s kingdoms was to run up the River Thames, to the River Lea; follow the Lea to its source (near Luton); from there extend in a straight line to Bedford; and from Bedford follow the River Ouse to Watling Street. In other words, Alfred succeeded to Ceolwulf’s kingdom, consisting of western Mercia; and Guthrum incorporated the eastern part of Mercia into an enlarged kingdom of East Anglia (henceforward known as the Danelaw). By terms of the treaty, moreover, Alfred was to have control over the Mercian city of London and its mints — at least for the time being. The disposition of Essex, held by West Saxon kings since the days of Egbert, is unclear from the treaty, though, given Alfred’s political and military superiority, it would have been surprising if he had conceded any disputed territory to his new godson. With the signing of the Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum, an event most commonly held to have taken place around 880 when Guthrum’s people began settling East Anglia, Guthrum was neutralised as a threat. In conjunction with this agreement an army of Danish left the island and sailed to Ghent. Alfred however was still forced to contend with a number of Danish threats. A year later in 881 Alfred fought a small sea battle against four Danish ships “on the high seas”. Two of the ships were destroyed and the others surrendered to Alfred’s forces. Similar small skirmishes with independent Viking raiders would have occurred for much of the period as they had for decades. In the year 883, though there is some debate over the year, King Alfred, because of his support and his donation of alms to Rome, received a number of gifts from the Pope Marinus. Among these gifts was reputed to be a piece of the true cross, a true treasure for the devout Saxon king. According to Asser, because of Pope Marinus’ friendship with King Alfred, the pope granted an exemption to any Anglo-Saxons residing within Rome from tax or tribute. After the signing of the treaty with Guthrum, Alfred was spared any large-scale conflicts for some time. Despite this relative peace, the king was still forced to deal with a number of Danish raids and incursions. Among these was a raid taking place in Kent, an allied country in Southeast England, during the year 885, which was quite possibly the largest raid since the battles with Guthrum. Asser’s account of the raid places the Danish raiders at the Saxon city of Rochester, where they built a temporary fortress in order to besiege the city. In response to this incursion, Alfred led an Anglo-Saxon force against the Danes who, instead of engaging the army of Wessex, fled to their beached ships and sailed to another part of Britain. The retreating Danish force supposedly left Britain the following summer. Not long after the failed Danish raid in Kent, Alfred dispatched his fleet to East Anglia. The purpose of this expedition is debated, though Asser claims that it was for the sake of plunder. After traveling up the River Stour, the fleet was met by Danish vessels that numbered 13 or 16 (sources vary on the number) and a battle ensued. The Anglo-Saxon Fleet emerged victorious and as Huntingdon accounts, “laden with spoils”. The victorious fleet was then caught unaware when attempting to leave the River Stour and was attacked by a Danish force at the mouth of the river. The Danish fleet was able to defeat Alfred's fleet which may have been weakened in the previous engagement. A year later, in 886, Alfred reoccupied the city of London and set out to make it habitable again. Alfred entrusted the city to the care of his son-in law Æthelred, ealdorman of Mercia. The restoration of London progressed through the later half of the 880s and is believed to have revolved around a new street plan, added fortifications in addition to the existing Roman walls, and, some believe, the construction of matching fortifications on the South bank of the River Thames. This is also the period in which almost all chroniclers agree that the Saxon people of pre-unification England submitted to Alfred. This was not, however, the point in which Alfred came to be known as King of England; in fact he would never adopt the title for himself. In truth the power which Alfred wielded over the English peoples at this time seemed to stem largely from the military might of the West Saxons, Alfred’s political connections from having the ruler of Mercia as his son-in-law, and Alfred’s keen administrative talents. Between the restoration of London and the resumption of large scale Danish attacks in the early 890s, Alfred’s reign was rather uneventful. The relative peace of the late 880s was marred by the death of Alfred's sister, Æthelswith, who died en route to Rome in 888.[28] In the same year the Archbishop of Canterbury, Æthelred, also passed away. One year later Guthrum, or Athelstan by his baptismal name, Alfred’s former enemy and king of East Anglia, died and was buried in Hadleigh, Suffolk. Guthrum’s passing marked a change in the political sphere Alfred dealt with. Guthrum’s death created a power vacuum which would stir up other power–hungry warlords eager to take his place in the following years. The quiet years of Alfred’s life were coming to a close, and war was on the horizon. Further Viking attacks repelled: After another lull, in the autumn of 892 or 893, the Danes attacked again. Finding their position in mainland Europe precarious, they crossed to England in 330 ships in two divisions. They entrenched themselves, the larger body at Appledore, Kent, and the lesser, under Hastein, at Milton, also in Kent. The invaders brought their wives and children with them, indicating a meaningful attempt at conquest and colonisation. Alfred, in 893 or 894, took up a position from which he could observe both forces. While he was in talks with Hastein, the Danes at Appledore broke out and struck northwestwards. They were overtaken by Alfred's oldest son, Edward, and were defeated in a general engagement at Farnham in Surrey. They took refuge on an island at Thorney, on the Hertfordshire Colne, where they were blockaded and were ultimately forced to submit.[30] The force fell back on Essex and, after suffering another defeat at Benfleet, coalesced with Hastein's force at Shoebury. Alfred had been on his way to relieve his son at Thorney when he heard that the Northumbrian and East Anglian Danes were besieging Exeter and an unnamed stronghold on the North Devon shore. Alfred at once hurried westward and raised the Siege of Exeter. The fate of the other place is not recorded. Meanwhile, the force under Hastein set out to march up the Thames Valley, possibly with the idea of assisting their friends in the west. But they were met by a large force under the three great ealdormen of Mercia, Wiltshire and Somerset, and forced to head off to the northwest, being finally overtaken and blockaded at Buttington. Some identify this with Buttington Tump at the mouth of the River Wye, others with Buttington near Welshpool. An attempt to break through the English lines was defeated. Those who escaped retreated to Shoebury. Then, after collecting reinforcements, they made a sudden dash across England and occupied the ruined Roman walls of Chester. The English did not attempt a winter blockade, but contented themselves with destroying all the supplies in the neighbourhood. Early in 894 (or 895), want of food obliged the Danes to retire once more to Essex. At the end of this year and early in 895 (or 896), the Danes drew their ships up the River Thames and River Lea and fortified themselves twenty miles (32 km) north of London. A direct attack on the Danish lines failed but, later in the year, Alfred saw a means of obstructing the river so as to prevent the egress of the Danish ships. The Danes realised that they were outmanoeuvred. They struck off north-westwards and wintered at Cwatbridge near Bridgnorth. The next year, 896 (or 897), they gave up the struggle. Some retired to Northumbria, some to East Anglia. Those who had no connections in England withdrew back to the continent. Wessex's history of failures preceding his success in 878 emphasised to Alfred that the traditional system of battle he had inherited played to the Danes' advantage. While both the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes attacked settlements to seize wealth and other resources, they employed very different strategies. In their raids, the Anglo-Saxons traditionally preferred to attack head-on by assembling their forces in a shield wall, advancing against their target and overcoming the oncoming wall marshaled against them in defence. In contrast, the Danes preferred to choose easy targets, mapping cautious forays designed to avoid risking all their accumulated plunder with high-stake attacks for more. Alfred determined their strategy was to launch smaller scaled attacks from a secure and reinforced defensible base which they could retreat to should their raiders meet strong resistance. These bases were prepared in advance, often by capturing an estate and augmenting its defences with surrounding ditches, ramparts and palisades. Once inside the fortification, Alfred realised, the Danes enjoyed the advantage, better situated to outlast their opponents or crush them with a counter attack as the provisions and stamina of the besieging forces waned. The means by which they marshaled the forces to defend against marauders also left the Anglo-Saxons vulnerable to the Vikings. It was only after the raids were underway that a call went out to landowners to gather men for battle, and large regions could be devastated before the newly assembled army arrived. And although the landowners were obliged to the king to supply these men when called, during the attacks in 878, many of them opportunistically abandoned their king and collaborated with Guthrum. With these lessons in mind, Alfred capitalised on the relatively peaceful years immediately following his victory at Ethandrun by focusing on an ambitious restructuring of his kingdom's military defences. When the Viking raids resumed in 892, Alfred was better prepared to confront them with a standing, mobile field army, a network of garrisons, and a small fleet of ships navigating the rivers and estuaries. At the centre of Alfred's reformed military defence system was a network of fortresses, or burhs, distributed at strategic points throughout the kingdom. There were thirty-three total spaced approximately 30 kilometres (19 miles) distant, enabling the military to confront attacks anywhere in the kingdom within a single day. Alfred's burhs (later termed boroughs) consisted mainly of massive earthen walls surrounded by wide ditches, probably reinforced with wooden revetments and palisades. The size of the burhs ranged from tiny outposts such as Pilton to large fortifications in established towns, the largest at Winchester. Many of the burhs were twin towns that straddled a river and connected by a fortified bridge, like those built by Charles the Bald a generation before. The double-burh blocked passage on the river, forcing Viking ships to navigate under a garrisoned bridge lined with men armed with stones, spears, or arrows. Other burhs were sited near fortified royal villas allowing the king better control over his strongholds. This network of well-garrisoned burhs posed significant obstacles to Viking invaders, especially those laden with booty. The system threatened Viking routes and communications making it far more dangerous for the Viking raiders. However, the Vikings lacked both the equipment necessary to undertake a siege against the burh and a developed doctrine of siegecraft, having tailored their methods of fighting to rapid strikes and unimpeded retreats to well defended fortifications. The only means left to them was to starve the burh into submission, but this allowed the king time to send assistance with his mobile field army or garrisons from neighbouring burhs. In such cases, the Vikings were extremely vulnerable to pursuit by the king's joint military forces. Alfred's burh system posed such a formidable challenge against Viking attack that when the Vikings returned in 892 and successfully stormed a half-made, poorly garrisoned fortress up the Lympne estuary in Kent, the Anglo-Saxons were able to limit their penetration to the outer frontiers of Wessex and Mercia. Alfred's burghal system was revolutionary in its strategic conception and potentially expensive in its execution. His contemporary biographer Asser wrote that many nobles baulked at the new demands placed upon them even though they were for "the common needs of the kingdom". The cost of building the burhs was great in itself, but this paled before the cost of upkeep for these fortresses and the maintenance of their standing garrisons. A remarkable early tenth-century document, known as the Burghal Hidage, provides a formula for determining how many men were needed to garrison a borough, based on one man for every 5.5 yards (5.0 m) of wall. This calculates to a total of 27,071 soldiers needed system wide, or approximately one in four of all the free men in Wessex. Reconstituted fyrd. Over the last two decades of his reign, Alfred undertook a radical reorganisation of the military institutions of his kingdom, strengthened the West Saxon economy through a policy of monetary reform and urban planning and strove to win divine favour by resurrecting the literary glories of earlier generations of Anglo-Saxons. Alfred pursued these ambitious programmes to fulfill, as he saw it, his responsibility as king. This justified the heavy demands he made upon his subjects' labour and finances. It even excused the expropriation of strategically located Church lands. Recreating the fyrd into a standing army, ringing Wessex with some thirty garrisoned fortified towns, and constructing new and larger ships for the royal fleet were costly endeavours that provoked resistance from noble and peasant alike. But they paid off. When the Vikings returned in force in 892 they found a kingdom defended by a standing, mobile field army and a network of garrisoned fortresses that commanded its navigable rivers and Roman roads. Alfred analysed the defects of the military system that he had inherited and implemented changes to remedy them. Alfred's military reorganisation of Wessex consisted of three elements: the building of thirty fortified and garrisoned towns (burhs) along the rivers and Roman roads of Wessex; the creation of a mobile (horsed) field force, consisting of his nobles and their warrior retainers, which was divided into two contingents, one of which was always in the field; and the enhancement of Wessex's seapower through the addition of larger ships to the existing royal fleet. Each element of the system was meant to remedy defects in the West Saxon military establishment exposed by the Viking invasions. If under the existing system he could not assemble forces quickly enough to intercept mobile Viking raiders, the obvious answer was to have a standing field force. If this entailed transforming the West Saxon fyrd from a sporadic levy of king's men and their retinues into a mounted standing army, so be it. If his kingdom lacked strongpoints to impede the progress of an enemy army, he would build them. If the enemy struck from the sea, he would counter them with his own naval power. Characteristically, all of Alfred's innovations were firmly rooted in traditional West Saxon practice, drawing as they did upon the three so-called ‘common burdens' of bridge work, fortress repair and service on the king's campaigns that all holders of bookland and royal loanland owed the Crown. Where Alfred revealed his genius was in designing the field force and burhs to be parts of a coherent military system. Neither Alfred's reformed fyrd nor his burhs alone would have afforded a sufficient defence against the Vikings; together, however, they robbed the Vikings of their major strategic advantages: surprise and mobility. Administration and taxation: To obtain the needed garrison troops and workers to build and maintain the burhs' defences, Alfred regularised and vastly expanded the existing (and, one might add, quite recent) obligation of landowners to provide ‘fortress work’ on the basis of the hidage assessed upon their lands.[46] The allotments of the Burghal Hidage represent the creation of administrative districts for the support of the burhs. The landowners attached to Wallingford, for example, were responsible for producing and feeding 2,400 men, the number sufficient for maintaining 9,900 feet (3.0 kilometres) of wall. Each of the larger burhs became the centre of a territorial district of considerable size, carved out of the neighbouring countryside in order to support the town. In one sense, Alfred conceived nothing truly new here. The shires of Wessex went back at least to the reign of King Ine, who probably also imposed a hidage assessment upon each for food rents and other services owed the Crown. Alfred also tried his hand at naval design. In 896, he ordered the construction of a small fleet, perhaps a dozen or so longships, that, at 60 oars, were twice the size of Viking warships. This was not, as the Victorians asserted, the birth of the English Navy. Wessex possessed a royal fleet before this. King Athelstan of Kent and Ealdorman Ealhhere had defeated a Viking fleet in 851, capturing nine ships, and Alfred himself had conducted naval actions in 882. But, clearly, the author of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and probably Alfred himself regarded 897 as marking an important development in the naval power of Wessex. The chronicler flattered his royal patron by boasting that Alfred's ships were not only larger, but swifter, steadier and rode higher in the water than either Danish or Frisian ships. (It is probable that, under the classical tutelage of Asser, Alfred utilised the design of Greek and Roman warships, with high sides, designed for fighting rather than for navigation.) Alfred had seapower in mind: if he could intercept raiding fleets before they landed, he could spare his kingdom from ravaging. Alfred's ships may have been superior in conception. However, in practice they proved to be too large to manoeuvre well in the close waters of estuaries and rivers, the only places in which a 'naval' battle could occur.[50] (The warships of the time were not designed to be ship killers but troop carriers. A naval battle entailed a ship's coming alongside an enemy vessel, at which point the crew would lash the two ships together and board the enemy. The result was effectively a land battle involving hand-to-hand fighting on board the two lashed vessels.) In the one recorded naval engagement in the year 896, Alfred's new fleet of nine ships intercepted six Viking ships in the mouth of an unidentified river along the south of England. The Danes had beached half their ships, and gone inland, either to rest their rowers or to forage for food. Alfred's ships immediately moved to block their escape to the sea. The three Viking ships afloat attempted to break through the English lines. Only one made it, Alfred's ships intercepted the other two. Lashing the Viking boats to their own, the English crew boarded the enemy's vessels and proceeded to kill everyone on board. The one ship that escaped managed to do so only because all of Alfred's heavy ships became mired when the tide went out. What ensued was a land battle between the crews of the grounded ships. The Danes, heavily outnumbered, would have been wiped out if the tide had not risen. When that occurred, the Danes rushed back to their boats, which being lighter, with shallower drafts, were freed before Alfred's ships. Helplessly, the English watched as the Vikings rowed past them. But the pirates had suffered so many casualties (120 Danes dead against 62 Frisians and English), that they had difficulties putting out to sea.[47] All were too damaged to row around Sussex and two were driven against the Sussex coast. The shipwrecked sailors were brought before Alfred at Winchester and were hanged. In the late 880s or early 890s, Alfred issued a long domboc or law code, consisting of his "own" laws followed by a code issued by his late seventh-century predecessor King Ine of Wessex. Together these laws are arranged into 120 chapters. In his introduction, Alfred explains that he gathered together the laws he found in many "synod-books" and "ordered to be written many of the ones that our forefathers observed—those that pleased me; and many of the ones that did not please me, I rejected with the advice of my councillors, and commanded them to be observed in a different way." Alfred singled out in particular the laws that he "found in the days of Ine, my kinsman, or Offa, king of the Mercians, or King Æthelbert of Kent, who first among the English people received baptism." It is difficult to know exactly what Alfred meant by this. He appended rather than integrated the laws of Ine into his code, and although he included, as had Æthelbert, a scale of payments in compensation for injuries to various body parts, the two injury tariffs are not aligned. And, Offa is not known to have issued a law code, leading historian Patrick Wormald to speculate that Alfred had in mind the legatine capitulary of 786 that was presented to Offa by two papal legates. About a fifth of the law code is taken up by Alfred's introduction, which includes translations into English of the Decalogue, a few chapters from the Book of Exodus, and the "Apostolic Letter" from Acts of the Apostles (15:23–29). The Introduction may best be understood as Alfred's meditation upon the meaning of Christian law. It traces the continuity between God's gift of Law to Moses to Alfred's own issuance of law to the West Saxon people. By doing so, it links the past to the historical present and represents Alfred's law-giving as a type of divine legislation. This is the reason that Alfred divided his code into precisely 120 chapters: 120 was the age at which Moses died and, in the number-symbolism of early medieval biblical exegetes, 120 stood for law. The link between the Mosaic Law and Alfred's code is the "Apostolic Letter," which figure so prominently in barbarian law codes, that for almost every misdeed at the first offence secular lords might with their permission receive without sin the monetary compensation, which they then fixed." The only crime that could not be compensated with a payment of money is treachery to a lord, he commanded his subjects to love his lord as Himself." Alfred's transformation underscores the importance that Alfred placed upon lordship, which he understood as a sacred bond instituted by God for the governance of man. When one turns from the domboc's introduction to the laws themselves, it is difficult to uncover any logical arrangement. The impression one receives is of a hodgepodge of miscellaneous laws. The law code, as it has been preserved, is singularly unsuitable for use in lawsuits. In fact, several of Alfred's laws contradict the laws of Ine that form an integral part of the code. Patrick Wormald's explanation is that Alfred's law code should be understood not as a legal manual, but as an ideological manifesto of kingship, "designed more for symbolic impact than for practical direction."[58] In practical terms, the most important law in the code may well be the very first: "We enjoin, what is most necessary, that each man keep carefully his oath and his pledge," which expresses a fundamental tenet of Anglo-Saxon law. Alfred devoted considerable attention and thought to judicial matters. Asser underscores his concern for judicial fairness. Alfred, according to Asser, insisted upon reviewing contested judgments made by his ealdormen and reeves, and "would carefully look into nearly all the judgements which were passed [issued] in his absence anywhere in the realm, to see whether they were just or unjust." A charter from the reign of his son Edward the Elder depicts Alfred as hearing one such appeal in his chamber, while washing his hands. Asser represents Alfred as a Solomonic judge, painstaking in his own judicial investigations and critical of royal officials who rendered unjust or unwise judgments. Although Asser never mentions Alfred's law code, he does say that Alfred insisted that his judges be literate, so that they could apply themselves "to the pursuit of wisdom." The failure to comply with this royal order was to be punished by loss of office. It is uncertain how seriously this should be taken; Asser was more concerned to represent Alfred as a wise ruler than to report actual royal policy. Foreign relations: Asser speaks grandiosely of Alfred's relations with foreign powers, but little definite information is available. His interest in foreign countries is shown by the insertions which he made in his translation of Orosius. He certainly corresponded with Elias III, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and possibly sent a mission to India in honour of Saint Thomas the Apostle, whose tomb was believed to lie in that country. Contact was also made with the Caliph in Baghdad. Embassies to Rome conveying the English alms to the Pope were fairly frequent.[65] Around 890, Wulfstan of Hedeby undertook a journey from Hedeby on Jutland along the Baltic Sea to the Prussian trading town of Truso. Alfred personally collected details of this trip. Alfred's relations with the Celtic princes in the western half of Britain are clearer. Comparatively early in his reign, according to Asser, the southern Welsh princes, owing to the pressure on them from North Wales and Mercia, commended themselves to Alfred. Later in the reign the North Welsh followed their example, and the latter cooperated with the English in the campaign of 893 (or 894). That Alfred sent alms to Irish and Continental monasteries may be taken on Asser's authority. The visit of the three pilgrim "Scots" (i.e. Irish) to Alfred in 891 is undoubtedly authentic. The story that he himself in his childhood was sent to Ireland to be healed by Saint Modwenna, though mythical, may show Alfred's interest in that island. In the 880s, at the same time that he was "cajoling and threatening" his nobles to build and man the burhs, Alfred, perhaps inspired by the example of Charlemagne almost a century before, undertook an equally ambitious effort to revive learning. It entailed the recruitment of clerical scholars from Mercia, Wales and abroad to enhance the tenor of the court and of the episcopacy; the establishment of a court school to educate his own children, the sons of his nobles, and intellectually promising boys of lesser birth; an attempt to require literacy in those who held offices of authority; a series of translations into the vernacular of Latin works the king deemed "most necessary for all men to know";[citation needed] the compilation of a chronicle detailing the rise of Alfred's kingdom and house; and the issuance of a law code that presented the West Saxons as a new people of Israel and their king as a just and divinely inspired law-giver. Very little is known of the church under Alfred. The Danish attacks had been particularly damaging to the monasteries, and though Alfred founded monasteries at Athelney and Shaftesbury, the first new monastic houses in Wessex since the beginning of the eighth century, and enticed foreign monks to England, monasticism did not revive significantly during his reign. Alfred undertook no systematic reform of ecclesiastical institutions or religious practices in Wessex. For him the key to the kingdom's spiritual revival was to appoint pious, learned, and trustworthy bishops and abbots. As king he saw himself as responsible for both the temporal and spiritual welfare of his subjects. Secular and spiritual authority were not distinct categories for Alfred.[citation needed] He was equally comfortable distributing his translation of Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care to his bishops so that they might better train and supervise priests, and using those same bishops as royal officials and judges. Nor did his piety prevent him from expropriating strategically sited church lands, especially estates along the border with the Danelaw, and transferring them to royal thegns and officials who could better defend them against Viking attacks. The Danish raids had also a devastating impact on learning in England. Alfred lamented in the preface to his translation of Gregory's Pastoral Care that "learning had declined so thoroughly in England that there were very few men on this side of the Humber who could understand their divine services in English, or even translate a single letter from Latin into English: and I suppose that there were not many beyond the Humber either". Alfred undoubtedly exaggerated for dramatic effect the abysmal state of learning in England during his youth. That Latin learning had not been obliterated is evidenced by the presence in his court of learned Mercian and West Saxon clerics such as Plegmund, Wæferth, and Wulfsige, but Alfred's account should not be entirely discounted. Manuscript production in England dropped off precipitously around the 860s when the Viking invasions began in earnest, not to be revived until the end of the century. Numerous Anglo-Saxon manuscripts burnt up along with the churches that housed them. And a solemn diploma from Christ Church, Canterbury dated 873 is so poorly constructed and written that historian Nicholas Brooks posited a scribe who was either so blind he could not read what he wrote or who knew little or no Latin. "It is clear," Brooks concludes, "that the metropolitan church [of Canterbury] must have been quite unable to provide any effective training in the scriptures or in Christian worship." Following the example of Charlemagne, Alfred established a court school for the education of his own children, those of the nobility, and "a good many of lesser birth". There they studied books in both English and Latin and "devoted themselves to writing, to such an extent, they were seen to be devoted and intelligent students of the liberal arts." He recruited scholars from the Continent and from Britain to aid in the revival of Christian learning in Wessex and to provide the king personal instruction. Grimbald and John the Saxon came from Francia; Plegmund (whom Alfred appointed archbishop of Canterbury in 890), Bishop Werferth of Worcester, Æthelstan, and the royal chaplains Werwulf, from Mercia; and Asser, from St. David's in south-western Wales. Alfred's educational ambitions seem to have extended beyond the establishment of a court school. Believing that without Christian wisdom there can be neither prosperity nor success in war, Alfred aimed "to set to learning (as long as they are not useful for some other employment) all the free-born young men now in England who have the means to apply themselves to it." Conscious of the decay of Latin literacy in his realm, Alfred proposed that primary education be taught in English, with those wishing to advance to holy orders to continue their studies in Latin. The problem, however, was that there were few "books of wisdom" written in English. Alfred sought to remedy this through an ambitious court-centred programme of translating into English the books he deemed "most necessary for all men to know." It is unknown when Alfred launched this programme, but it may have been during the 880s when Wessex was enjoying a respite from Viking attacks. Apart from the lost Handboc or Encheiridion, which seems to have been a commonplace book kept by the king, the earliest work to be translated was the Dialogues of Gregory the Great, a book greatly popular in the Middle Ages. The translation was undertaken at Alfred's command by Werferth, Bishop of Worcester, with the king merely furnishing a preface.[9] Remarkably, Alfred, undoubtedly with the advice and aid of his court scholars, translated four works himself: Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care, Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy, St. Augustine's Soliloquies, and the first fifty psalms of the Psalter. One might add to this list Alfred's translation, in his law code, of excerpts from the Vulgate Book of Exodus. The Old English versions of Orosius's Histories against the Pagans and Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People are no longer accepted by scholars as Alfred's own translations because of lexical and stylistic differences.[74] Nonetheless, the consensus remains that they were part of the Alfredian programme of translation. Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge suggest this also for Bald's Leechbook and the anonymous Old English Martyrology. Alfred's first translation was of Pope Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care, which he prefaced with an introduction explaining why he thought it necessary to translate works such as this one from Latin into English. Although he described his method as translating "sometimes word for word, sometimes sense for sense," Alfred's translation actually keeps very close to his original, although through his choice of language he blurred throughout the distinction between spiritual and secular authority. Alfred meant his translation to be used and circulated it to all his bishops. Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy was the most popular philosophical handbook of the Middle Ages. Unlike his translation of the Pastoral Care, Alfred here deals very freely with his original and that many of the additions to the text are to be traced not to Alfred himself, but to the glosses and commentaries which he used, still there is much in the work which is solely Alfred's and highly characteristic of his style. It is in the Boethius that the oft-quoted sentence occurs: "My will was to live worthily as long as I lived, and after my life to leave to them that should come after, my memory in good works." The book has come down to us in two manuscripts only. In one of these the writing is prose, in the other a combination of prose and alliterating verse. The latter manuscript was severely damaged in the 18th and 19th centuries,[79] and the authorship of the verse has been much disputed; but likely it also is by Alfred. In fact, he writes in the prelude that he first created a prose work and then used it as the basis for his poem Metres of Boethius, his crowning literary achievement. He spent a great deal of time working on these books, which he tells us he gradually wrote through the many stressful times of his reign to refresh his mind. Of the authenticity of the work as a whole there has never been any doubt. The last of Alfred's works is one to which he gave the name Blostman, i.e., "Blooms" or Anthology. The first half is based mainly on the Soliloquies of St Augustine of Hippo, the remainder is drawn from various sources, and contains much that is Alfred's own and highly characteristic of him. The last words of it may be quoted; they form a fitting epitaph for the noblest of English kings. "Therefore he seems to me a very foolish man, and truly wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is in the world, and ever wish and long to reach that endless life where all shall be made clear." Alfred appears as a character in the twelfth or thirteenth century poem The Owl and the Nightingale, where his wisdom and skill with proverbs is praised. The Proverbs of Alfred, a thirteenth-century work, contains sayings that are not likely to have originated with Alfred but attest to his posthumous medieval reputation for wisdom. In 868, Alfred married Ealhswith, daughter of a Mercian nobleman, Æthelred Mucil, Ealdorman of the Gaini. The Gaini were probably one of the tribal groups of the Mercians. Ealhswith's mother, Eadburh, was a member of the Mercian royal family. They had five or six children together, including Edward the Elder, who succeeded his father as king, Æthelflæd, who would become Queen of Mercia in her own right, and Ælfthryth who married Baldwin II the Count of Flanders. His mother was Osburga daughter of Oslac of the Isle of Wight, Chief Butler of England. Asser, in his Vita Ælfredi asserts that this shows his lineage from the Jutes of the Isle of Wight. This is unlikely as Bede tells us that they were all slaughtered by the Saxons under Cædwalla. In 2008 the skeleton of Queen Eadgyth, granddaughter of Alfred the Great was found in Magdeburg Cathedral in Germany. It was confirmed in 2010 that these remains belong to her, one of the earliest members of the English royal family. -------------------- More About Alfred The Great Of England: Occupation: Bet. 871 - 899, King of England.

More About Alfred The Great Of England and Ealhswith Of Mercia: Marriage: 868, Winchester, Hants, England. -------------------- http://www.britroyals.com/kings.asp?id=alfred

http://www.royal.gov.uk/HistoryoftheMonarchy/KingsandQueensofEngland/TheAnglo-Saxonkings/AlfredtheGreat.aspx -------------------- ALFRED 'THE GREAT' (r. 871-899)

Born at Wantage, Berkshire, in 849, Alfred was the fifth son of Aethelwulf, king of the West Saxons. At their father's behest and by mutual agreement, Alfred's elder brothers succeeded to the kingship in turn, rather than endanger the kingdom by passing it to under-age children at a time when the country was threatened by worsening Viking raids from Denmark. 
Since the 790s, the Vikings had been using fast mobile armies, numbering thousands of men embarked in shallow-draught longships, to raid the coasts and inland waters of England for plunder. Such raids were evolving into permanent Danish settlements; in 867, the Vikings seized York and established their own kingdom in the southern part of Northumbria. The Vikings overcame two other major Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, East Anglia and Mercia, and their kings were either tortured to death or fled. Finally, in 870 the Danes attacked the only remaining independent Anglo-Saxon kingdom, Wessex, whose forces were commanded by King Aethelred and his younger brother Alfred. At the battle of Ashdown in 871, Alfred routed the Viking army in a fiercely fought uphill assault. However, further defeats followed for Wessex and Alfred's brother died. 
As king of Wessex at the age of 21, Alfred (reigned 871-99) was a strongminded but highly strung battle veteran at the head of remaining resistance to the Vikings in southern England. In early 878, the Danes led by King Guthrum seized Chippenham in Wiltshire in a lightning strike and used it as a secure base from which to devastate Wessex. Local people either surrendered or escaped (Hampshire people fled to the Isle of Wight), and the West Saxons were reduced to hit and run attacks seizing provisions when they could. With only his royal bodyguard, a small army of thegns (the king's followers) and Aethelnoth earldorman of Somerset as his ally, Alfred withdrew to the Somerset tidal marshes in which he had probably hunted as a youth. (It was during this time that Alfred, in his preoccupation with the defence of his kingdom, allegedly burned some cakes which he had been asked to look after; the incident was a legend dating from early twelfth century chroniclers.) 
A resourceful fighter, Alfred reassessed his strategy and adopted the Danes' tactics by building a fortified base at Athelney in the Somerset marshes and summoning a mobile army of men from Wiltshire, Somerset and part of Hampshire to pursue guerrilla warfare against the Danes. In May 878, Alfred's army defeated the Danes at the battle of Edington. According to his contemporary biographer Bishop Asser, 'Alfred attacked the whole pagan army fighting ferociously in dense order, and by divine will eventually won the victory, made great slaughter among them, and pursued them to their fortress (Chippenham) ... After fourteen days the pagans were brought to the extreme depths of despair by hunger, cold and fear, and they sought peace'. This unexpected victory proved to be the turning point in Wessex's battle for survival. 
Realising that he could not drive the Danes out of the rest of England, Alfred concluded peace with them in the treaty of Wedmore. King Guthrum was converted to Christianity with Alfred as godfather and many of the Danes returned to East Anglia where they settled as farmers. In 886, Alfred negotiated a partition treaty with the Danes, in which a frontier was demarcated along the Roman Watling Street and northern and eastern England came under the jurisdiction of the Danes - an area known as 'Danelaw'. Alfred therefore gained control of areas of West Mercia and Kent which had been beyond the boundaries of Wessex. To consolidate alliances against the Danes, Alfred married one of his daughters, Aethelflaed, to the ealdorman of Mercia -Alfred himself had married Eahlswith, a Mercian noblewoman - and another daughter, Aelfthryth, to the count of Flanders, a strong naval power at a time when the Vikings were settling in eastern England. 
The Danish threat remained, and Alfred reorganised the Wessex defences in recognition that efficient defence and economic prosperity were interdependent. First, he organised his army (the thegns, and the existing militia known as the fyrd) on a rota basis, so he could raise a 'rapid reaction force' to deal with raiders whilst still enabling his thegns and peasants to tend their farms. 
Second, Alfred started a building programme of well-defended settlements across southern England. These were fortified market places ('borough' comes from the Old English burh, meaning fortress); by deliberate royal planning, settlers received plots and in return manned the defences in times of war. (Such plots in London under Alfred's rule in the 880s shaped the streetplan which still exists today between Cheapside and the Thames.) This obligation required careful recording in what became known as 'the Burghal Hidage', which gave details of the building and manning of Wessex and Mercian burhs according to their size, the length of their ramparts and the number of men needed to garrison them. Centred round Alfred's royal palace in Winchester, this network of burhs with strongpoints on the main river routes was such that no part of Wessex was more than 20 miles from the refuge of one of these settlements. Together with a navy of new fast ships built on Alfred's orders, southern England now had a defence in depth against Danish raiders. 
Alfred's concept of kingship extended beyond the administration of the tribal kingdom of Wessex into a broader context. A religiously devout and pragmatic man who learnt Latin in his late thirties, he recognised that the general deterioration in learning and religion caused by the Vikings' destruction of monasteries (the centres of the rudimentary education network) had serious implications for rulership. For example, the poor standards in Latin had led to a decline in the use of the charter as an instrument of royal government to disseminate the king's instructions and legislation. In one of his prefaces, Alfred wrote 'so general was its [Latin] decay in England that there were very few on this side of the Humber who could understand their rituals in English or translate a letter from Latin into English ... so few that I cannot remember a single one south of the Thames when I came to the throne.' 
To improve literacy, Alfred arranged, and took part in, the translation (by scholars from Mercia) from Latin into Anglo-Saxon of a handful of books he thought it 'most needful for men to know, and to bring it to pass ... if we have the peace, that all the youth now in England ... may be devoted to learning'. These books covered history, philosophy and Gregory the Great's 'Pastoral Care' (a handbook for bishops), and copies of these books were sent to all the bishops of the kingdom. Alfred was patron of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (which was copied and supplemented up to 1154), a patriotic history of the English from the Wessex viewpoint designed to inspire its readers and celebrate Alfred and his monarchy. 
Like other West Saxon kings, Alfred established a legal code; he assembled the laws of Offa and other predecessors, and of the kingdoms of Mercia and Kent, adding his own administrative regulations to form a definitive body of Anglo-Saxon law. 'I ... collected these together and ordered to be written many of them which our forefathers observed, those which I liked; and many of those which I did not like I rejected with the advice of my councillors ... For I dared not presume to set in writing at all many of my own, because it was unknown to me what would please those who should come after us ... Then I ... showed those to all my councillors, and they then said that they were all pleased to observe them' (Laws of Alfred, c.885-99). 
By the 890s, Alfred's charters and coinage (which he had also reformed, extending its minting to the burhs he had founded) referred to him as 'king of the English', and Welsh kings sought alliances with him. Alfred died in 899, aged 50, and was buried in Winchester, the burial place of the West Saxon royal family. 
By stopping the Viking advance and consolidating his territorial gains, Alfred had started the process by which his successors eventually extended their power over the other Anglo-Saxon kings; the ultimate unification of Anglo-Saxon England was to be led by Wessex. It is for his valiant defence of his kingdom against a stronger enemy, for securing peace with the Vikings and for his farsighted reforms in the reconstruction of Wessex and beyond, that Alfred - alone of all the English kings and queens - is known as 'the Great'.
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Son of Ethelwulf, succeeded his brother, Ethelred I., reigning from 871 to 900. Alfred began as second-in-command to his eldest brother, King Ethelred I. There were no jealousies between them, but a marked difference of temperament. Ethelred inclined toward a religious viewpoint that faith and prayer were the prime agencies by which the heathen would be overcome. Alfred, though also devout, laid the emphasis upon policy and arms. He was born in 849 and died in 900. At twenty-four he became King.
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Alfred the Great, King of the Anglo-Saxons's Timeline

848
848
Wantage Berkshire England
849
849
Modern Wantage, Berkshire, England
868
868
Age 19
Mercia, England
868
Age 19
869
869
Age 20
Wessex, England
869
Age 20
Wantage, Oxfordshire, England
871
871
Age 22
871
Age 22
873
873
Age 24
United Kingdom
875
875
Age 26
Wessex, Eng.