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Alfred The Great King of Wessex

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Alfred The Great King of Wessex


Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great (849-899) is a king of Wessex (871-899). He resisted Viking assaults and promoted piety and knowledge in his kingdom.

Alfred (Ælfrēd in English) was born in 849. He is the last son of the king of Wessex Ethelwulf.

Family Tree of Alfred the great


Why was Alfred the Great so great?

In 865, a "great pagan army" landed in England, led by Ivar the boneless and Halfdan, and was victorious everywhere: East-Anglia, Northumbria, Mercia. In 870-871, it turns to Wessex, where Alfred and his brother, King Ethelred, fight a series of battles. Even if the Saxons win at Ashdown, the Danes have the advantage and Alfred, who succeeded his brother, must ask for peace.


While a part of the Danish army undertakes the colonization of Northumbria, then of Mercia, the rest makes its return to Wessex from 875. Alfred initially succeeds in buying peace but, in 878, the Danes seize a large part of the kingdom.


What happened to Alfred the Great?

Alfred had to retreat to the Somerset marshes where, from the island of Athelney, he first pursued a strategy of harassing the enemy army. Then, having managed to gather an army around him, he wins the victory at Eddington (878). The Danes surrender, their leader, Guthrum, is baptized, with Alfred as godfather, and they settle the following year in East Anglia.


In 885, a new Viking army, supported by the East Anglican Danes, attacked Kent. Alfred retaliated, and in 886 he captured London. A new treaty was concluded with Guthorm - his text was kept - to delimit their respective territories. From then on, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, "all the English submitted to [Alfred], except those under the Danish yoke. In reality, his authority was limited to Wessex and part of Mercia.


In 892, a new large Danish army, joined by Hasting, is held in check. Alfred took advantage of the years of peace to improve the kingdom's defenses: reorganization of the army, half of which had to be permanently mobilized, development of a network of fortresses and fortified towns (the burhs), creation of a navy. The Danish army finally dispersed in 896.

In addition to his defense of the kingdom of Wessex, Alfred also reformed the administration, paid particular attention to justice, and promulgated a new code of laws.


Convinced that the Vikings are an instrument of divine wrath, and that the misfortunes that afflict England punish the decline of piety and knowledge, Alfred launched a vast undertaking of spiritual and cultural restoration, for clergy and laity alike.

In addition to the founding of schools, this has resulted in the translation of "the books most necessary for all men to know," including the Ecclesiastical History of the English People of Bede the Venerable or the Stories Against the Pagans of Orose. A man of culture, Alfred himself translated Gregory the Great (Liber Pastoralis), Saint Augustine (Soliloques) or Boèce (Consolation de Philosophie).

Who killed Alfred the Great? when he die?

Alfred died in 899 from unknown causes, most probably caused by poor health experienced early on in his life.


He prevented the whole of England from falling into Viking hands and allowed his son, Edward the Elder, and his grandson, Athelstan, to unify England under the House of Wessex.

Alfred's life is known through the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was first written during his reign, and through the account of it by the Welsh monk Asser (893).


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