King Alfred Wessex ENGLAND
- Born: Abt 848-849, Wantage, Wessex, Berkshire, England
- Married: Abt 867-868
- Died: 26 Oct 899-901, Winchester, Hampshire, England
- Buried: Cathedral, Winchester, Hampshire, England
Other names for Alfred were "The Great", ENGLAND King and WESSEX King.
Ancestral File Number: 8HS0-39. User ID: 38730269638.
"The Great", King of WESSEX reigned 871-899/901, 1st King of ENGLAND.
A History of the English Speaking Peoples, Winston Churchill, 1956, Vol I, p105: "The Danes had occupied London, not then the English captial, but a town inthe kingdom of Mercia, and their army had fortified itself at Reading. Moving forward, they met the forces of the West Saxons on the Berkshire downs, and here, in January 871, was fought the Battle of Ashdown. Both sides divided their forces into two commands. Ethelred tarried long at his devotions. The Vikings, with their brightly painted shields and banners, their finery and golden bracelets, made the West Saxons seem modest by contrast. As they slowly approached they clashed theirshields and weapons and raised long, repeated, and defiant war-cries. Although archery was not much in use, missiles began to fly. The King was still at his prayers. God came first, he declared to those who warned him that the battle must soonbe joined. `But Alfred,' according to Bishop Asser, who had the account from truthful eyewitnesses, `seeing the heathen had come quickly on to the field and were ready for battle...could bear the attacks of the enemy no longer, and he had to choose between withdrawing altogether or beginning the battle without waiting for his brother. At last, like a wild boar, he led the Christian forces boldly against the army of the enemy...in spite of the fact that the King had not yet arrived.And so, relying on God's counsel and trusting to His help, he closed the shield-wall in due order and thereupon moved his standards against the enemy.'
"The fight was long and hard. King Ethelred, his spiritual duty done, soon joined his brother. `The heathens,' said the Bishop, `had seized the higher ground, and the Christians had to advance uphill. There was in that place a single stunted thorn-tree which we have seen with our own eyes. Round about this tree, then, the opposing ranks met in conflict, with a great shouting from all men- one side bent on evil, the other side fighting for life and their loved ones and their native land.' At last the Danes gave way, and, hotly pursued, fled back to Reading. They fled till nightfall; they fled through the night and the next day, and the whole breadth of Ashdown- meaning the Berkshire hills- was strewn with their corpses, among which were found the body of one of the Viking kings and five of his jarls.
"The results of this victory did not break the power of the Danish army; in a fortnight they were again in the field. But the Battle of Ashdown justly takes its place among historic encounters because of the greatness of the issue. If the West Saxons had been beaten all England would have sunk into heathen anarchy. Since they were victorious the hope still burned for a civilised Christian existence in this Island. This was the first time the invaders had been beaten in the field. The last of the Saxon kingdoms had withstood the assault upon it. Alfred had made the Saxons feel confidence in themselves again. They could hold their own in open fight. The story of this conflict at Ashdown was for generations a treasured memory ofthe Saxon writers. It was Alfred's battle.
"All through the year 871 the two armies waged deadly war. King Ethelred soon fell sick and died. Although he had young children there was no doubt who his successor must be. At twenty-four Alfred became King, and entered upon a desperate inheritance. To and fro the fighting swayed, with varying fortunes. The Danes were strongly reinforced from overseas; `the summer army,' as it was called, `innumerable,' `eager to fight against the army of the West Saxons,' arrived to join them. Seven or eight battles were fought, and we are told the Danes usually held the field..."
Early England 55BC-AD871, Peter H Blair, 1963, Norton Library History of England, p274: "Appendix A, Table of Dates...871 Danes defeated at Ashdown. Accession of Alfred (April)..."
The Wall Chart of World History, Edward Hull, 1988, Studio Editions, England 857: "Ethelbert, brother of Ethelbald, King of England 860-866..."
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1981, Micropaedia, Vol I, p116, Aethelred I: "Also Ethelred, Died 871, King of Wessex, Reigned 866-871."
The Storyof Civilization, Will Durant, Vol IV, The Age of Faith, Bk IV, The Dark Ages, Ch XX, The Rise of the North, Sec I, England, p483: "By 871 most of England north of the Thames was subject to the Danish invaders. In that year a Danish army underGunthrum marched southward to attack Reading, the Wessex capital; Ethelred the King and his young brother Alfred met the Danes at Ashdown and won; but in a second engagement at Merton Ethelred was mortally wounded, and the English fled."
The Formation of England 550-1042, HPR Finberg, 1974, Paladin, p122-124: "...Of more immediate practical consequence was the family compact by which Ethelwulf bound his four sons. The details are complex and ambiguous, but the brothers apparently agreed that whichever of them lived the longest should suc- ceed to the undivided inheritance, thus excluding from the kingship any chilren the others might leave. In the event that only one of Ethelwulf's grandsons lived to dispute this arrangement, which ensured that the estate of the royal house should not be dissipated by division among the coheirs, and that future kings of Wessex should dispose of ample resources in land and money, enabling them to reward their trusty thegns and to surround the monarch with unprecedented splendour...
"...The next brother [after Ethelbald], Ethelbert, reigned from 860 to 865, and the third, Ethelred I, from 865 to 871. Ethelred's accession coincided with a decisive change in the character of the Viking menace. No longer content with sporadic raids, the Danes were now prepared to stay year after year in England, striking at every weak point with the object of seizing land on which to settle. In 865 a great host landed in East Anglia, and within a year received the submission of that kingdom. Then they proceeded to Northumbria, captured York, and set up a vassal king of the region beyond the Tyne. Next they invaded Mercia, and from a base in Nottingham compelledKing Burgred to buy peace. Towards the end of 869 they returned to East Anglia and defeated an army led by the young King Edmund, whom they took prisoner and killed. Revered as a martyr for his death at heathen hands, Edmund has given his nameto Bury St Edmunds, where a great abbey was later founded in his honour.
"The Danes were now in a position to strike at Wessex. Entrenching themselves at Reading, they attacked King Ethelred and his brother Alfred. The West Saxons gained amemorable victory at Ashdown, but in a series of general engagements which followed neither side gained a decisive victory. In April 871 Ethelred died, leaving Alfred, now about twenty-three years old and already an experienced warrior, to reign over a kingdom fighting for its life..."
From Alfred to Henry III 871-1272, Christopher Brooke, 1961, Norton Library History of England, p32: "...[According ot the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle] in 865 `Ethelred [Aethelwulf's third son] succeeded to the kingdom of Wessex. And this same year came a great host to England and took winter-quarters in East Anglia.' In 866 the host moved into Northumbria, and in 867 into Mercia; `and Burhred, king of Mercia, and his councillors begged Ethelred, king of Wessex, and his brother Alfred to help them fight against the host...'"
The Wall Chart of World History, Edward Hull, 1988, Studio Editions, England 866: "Ethelred, brother of Ethelbert, King of England 866-871..."
The Story of Civilization, Will Durant, Vol IV, The Age of Faith, Bk IV, The Dark Ages, Ch XX, The Rise of the North, Sec I, England, p483-486: "By 871 most of England north of the Thames was subject to the Danish Invaders. In that year a Danish army under Guthrum marched southward to attack Reading, the Wessex capital; Ethelred the King and his young brother Alfred met the Danes at Ashdown and won; but in a second engagement at Merton Ethelred was mortally wounded, and the English fled. Alfred mounted the throne of West Saxony at the age of twenty-two (871)."
"Asser describes him as the `illiteratus', which could mean either illiterate or Latinless. He was apparently epileptic, and suffered a seizure at his wedding feast; but he is pictured as a vigorous hunter, handsome and graceful, and surpassing his brothers in wisdom and martial skill. A month after his accession he led his little army against the Danes at Wilton, and was so badly defeated that to save his throne he had to buy peace from the foe; but in 878 he won a decisive victory at Ethandum (Edington). Half the Danish host crossed the Channel to raid weakened France; the rest, by the Peace of Wedmore, agreed to confine themselves to northeastern Englandin what came to be called the Danelaw..."
"Alfred led his army into East Anglia, conquered the land, and- perhaps to unify England against the Danes- made himself king of East Anglia and Mercia as well as Wessex. Then like a lesser Charlemagne, he turned to the work of restoration and government. He reorganized the army, built a navy, established a common law for his three kingdoms, reformed the administration of justice, provided legal protection for the poor, built or rebuiltcities and towns, and erected `royal halls and chambers with stone and wood' for his growing governmental staff. An eighth of his revenue was devoted to relief of the poor; another eighth to education..."
"He sent abroad for scholars- forBishop Asser from Wales, for Erigena from France, and for many others- to come and instruct his people and himself. He mourned that he had had so little time for reading, and he now gave himself like a monk to pious and learned studies. Recognizing, almost before any other European, the rising importance of the vernacular tongues, he arranged to have certain basic books rendered into English; and he himself laboriously translated Boethius' `Consolation of Philosophy', Gregory's `Pastoral Care', Orosius' `Univeral History', and Bede's `Ecclesiastical History of England'. Again like Charlemagne, he gathered the songs of his people, taught them to his children, and joined the minstrels of his court in singing them."
"In894 a fresh invasion of Danes reached Kent; the Danes of the Danelaw sent them reinforcements; and the Welsh-Celtic patriots still unconquered by the Anglo-Saxons-signed an alliance with the Danes. Alfred's son Edward fell upon the pirate campand destroyed it, and Alfred's new navy dispersed the Danish fleet (899). Two years later the King died, having lived only fifty-two years, and reigned for twenty-eight."
"We cannot compare him with a giant like Charlemagne, for the areaof his enterprise was small; but in his moral qualities-his piety, unassuming rectitude, temperance, patience, courtesy, devotion to his people, anxiety to further education-he offered to the English nation amodel and stimulus that it gratefully received and soon forgot. Voltaire admired him perhaps immoderately: `I do not think that there ever was in the world a man more worthy of the regard of posterity than Alfred the Great.'"
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1981, Macropaedia, Vol I, p485, Alfred the Great, of Wessex: "...was the man whose courage, tenacity, and skill prevented England from falling to the Danes in the 9th century. By saving his own kingdom, he made it possible for his successor to reconquer the areas settledby the Danes. He was a remarkably enlightened ruler and was the only English King to bring about a great revival of learning not only by his encouragement but also by his own writings..."
"...He first appeared on active service in 868, when he and his brother, King Aethelred (Ethelred) I, went to help [their brother-in-law] Burgred of Mercia (the kingdom between the Thames and the Humber) against a great Danish army that had landed in East Anglia in 865 and taken possession ofNorthumbria in 867...In this year Alfred married Ealhswith, descended through her mother from Mercian kings..."
"...In one of his endeavours, however, Alfred had little success; he tried to revive monasticism, founding a monastery and a nunnery, but there was little enthusiasm in England for the monastic life until after the revivals on the Continent in the next century."
"Alfred died in 899. Alone of Anglo Saxon kings, he inspired a full-length biography, written in 893, by the Welsh scholar Asser. This work reveals that Alfred laboured throughout under the Burden of recurrent, painful illness;... what can be seen is a man of attractive character, full of compassion, able to inspire affection, and intensely conscious of the responsibilities of kingly office. Alfred was never forgotten: his memory lived on through the Middle Ages and in legend as that of a king who won victory in apparently hopeless circum- stances and as a wise lawgiver. Some of his works were copied as late as the 12th century. Modern studies have increased knowledge of him but have not altered in its essentials the medieval conception of a great king."
Vol III, p202, Britain and Ireland History of: "...A large Danisharmy came to East Anglia in the autumn of 865, apparently intent on conquest. By 871, when it first attacked Wessex, it had already captured York, been bought off by Mercia, and had taken possession of East Anglia. Many battles were fought inWessex, including a Danish defeat at Ashdown in 871, before Alfred the Great, a son of Aethelwulf, who succeeded to the throne in the course of the year, made peace; this gave him a respite until 876. Meanwhile the Danes drove out Burgred of Mercia, putting a puppet king in his place, and one division of them made a permanent settlement in Northumbria.
"Alfred was able to force the Danes to leave Wessex in 877, and they settled northeastern Mercia; but a Viking attack in the winter of 878 came near to conquering Wessex. That it did not is to be attributed to Alfred's tenacity. He retired to the Somerset marshes, and in the spring he secretly assembled an army that routed the Danes at Edington. Their king, Guthrum, accepted Christianity and took his forces to East Anglia, where the settled.
"The importance of Alfred's victory cannot be exaggerated. It prevented the Danes from becoming masters of the whole of England. Wessex was never again in such danger, and from Wessex, in the next century, the Danish areas were reconquered. Alfred's capture of London in 886, and the resultant acceptance of hem by all the English outside the Danish areas, was a preliminary to this reconquest. That Wessex stood when the other kingdoms had fallen must be put down to Alfred's courage and wisdom, to his defensive measures in reorganizing his army, th his building fortresses and ships, and to his diplomacy, which made the Welsh kings his allies. Renewed attacks by viking hosts in 892-896, supported by the Danes resident in England, caused widespread damage but had no lasting success.
"Good internal government contributed to Alfred's successful resistance to the Danes. He reorganized his finances and the services due from thegns, issued an imprtant code of laws, and scrutinized carefully the exercise of justice. Alfred saw the Viking invasions as a punishment from God, especially because of a neglect of learning, without which men could not know and follow the will of God. He deplored the decay of Latin and enjoined its study by those destined for the church; but he also wished all young free men of adequate means to learn to read English, and he aimed at supplyingmen with `the books must necessary for all men to know,' in their own language.
"Alfred had acquired an education despite great difficulties, and he translated some books himself, with the help of scholars from Mercia, the Continent, andWales. Among them they made available works of Bede and Orosius, Gregory and Augustine, and the `De consolatione philosophiae' of Boethius. Compilation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle began in his reign. The effects of Alfred's educational reformscan be glimpsed in succeeding reigns, and his works continued to be copied. Only in an attempt to revive monasticism did he achieve little, for the monastic idea had lost its appeal- in England as well as on the Continent- during the Viking Age..."
The Formation of England 550-1042, HPR Finberg, 1974, Paladin, p122-124: "In 853 Ethelwulf sent his youngest son, Alfred, then little more than four years old, to Rome with an imposing retinue. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Alfred's contemporary biographer Asser both state that during this visit the pope, Leo IV, not only confirmed but also consecrated- Asser says more explicitly anointed- the child as king and adopted him as his spiritual son. A precendent had been set in 781when two infant sons of Charlemagne received kingly anointing and were similarly adopted by Adrian.
"Of more immediate practical consequence was the family compact by which Ethelwulf bound his four sons. The details are complex and ambiguous, but the brothers apparently agreed that whichever of them lived the longest should suc- ceed to the undivided inheritance, thus excluding from the kingship any chilren the others might leave. In the event that only one of Ethelwulf's grandsons lived to dispute this arrangement, which ensured that the estate of the royal house should not be dissipated by division among the coheirs, and that future kings of Wessex should dispose of ample resources in land and money, enabling themto reward their trusty thegns and to surround the monarch with unprecedented splendour...
"...The next brother [after Ethelbald], Ethelbert, reigned from 860 to 865, and the third, Ethelred I, from 865 to 871. Ethelred's accession coincided with a decisive change in the character of the Viking menace. No longer content with sporadic raids, the Danes were now prepared to stay year after year in England, striking at every weak point with the object of seizing land on which to settle. In 865 a great host landed in East Anglia, and within a year received the submission of that kingdom. Then they proceeded to Northumbria, captured York, and set up a vassal king of the region beyond the Tyne. Next they invaded Mercia, and from a base in Nottingham compelled King Burgred to buy peace. Towards the end of 869 they returned to East Anglia and defeated an army led by the young King Edmund, whom they took prisoner and killed. Revered as a martyr for his death at heathen hands, Edmund has given his name to Bury St Edmunds, where a great abbey was later founded in his honour.
"The Danes were now in a position to strike at Wessex. Entrenching themselves at Reading, they attacked King Ethelred and his brother Alfred. The West Saxons gained a memorable victory at Ashdown, but in a series of general engagements which followed neither side gained a decisive victory. In April 871 Ethelred died, leaving Alfred, now about twenty-three years old and already an experienced warrior, to reign over a kingdom fighting for its life. By the end of his first year as king he had given the Danes enough trouble to make them leave him alone for the time being, at a price...
"Thus within less than adecade every English kingdom but Wessex had lost its independence. Mobility, speed, and a united command made the Danish onslaught nearly irresistable. Their fleets could move faster than any army on land, and when they disembarked they seizedhorses and rode in any direction chose, looting and burning monasteries, and withdrawing as quickly when threatened by superior forces. Great sums had to be paid in order to buy them off...a Wessex charter, undated but not earlier than 879 speaks of `the magnitude of the tribute which our whole people used to pay the heathen.' No Anglo-Saxon kingdom but one could organize defences on the necessary scale, and even Wessex found the burden all but intolerable.
"Three annals in theAnglo-Saxon Chronicle record all to concisely the main events in the Scandinavian settlement of England: "`876. Halfdene shared out the land of the Northumbrians, and they began to plough and support themselves.' The area thus occupied by Halfdene and his men was approximately that of modern Yorkshire. The other half of the Viking host, led by a king named Guthrum, went on to attack mercia and Wessex.
"`877. The Danish army went away into Mercia, and shared out some of it, and gave some to Ceolwulf.' They annexed what are now the shires of Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, and Lincoln, leaving Ceolwulf II to reign as their vassal over the western half of Mercia.
"`880. The army went from Cirencester into East Anglia and settle there and shared out the land.'
"Behind this withdrawal to East Anglia lay a dramatic turn of fortune.King Alfred faced an enemy diminished in numbers but still formidable, and there were those among his subjects who would have preferred submission to a continuance of the struggle. Long afterwards men told picturesque tales of the straits to which Alfred was reduced, and indeed, with the enemy encamped at Chippenham, in control of west Wiltshire and north Somerset, the position looked threatening enough. But Alfred had already proved that Guthrum and his men were not invincible, and he now took the initiative. From a fortified retreat at Athelney in the almost impenetrable marshes of Somerset he constantly harassed the enemy. Meanwhile he kept in touch with his ealdormen, only one of whom is known to have deserted, and through the ealdormen with his loyal thegns. After seven weeks of guerrilla warfare, a carefully prepared plan of campaign brought the combined forces of Somerset, Wiltshire, and Hampshire west of Southampton Water to a rendezvous on the borders of their shires. There Alfred met them, and in the simple but deeply expressive words of the Chronicle, `they were glad tosee him.' All the hopes of Christian England were concentrated on this one man, the only member of an Old English dynasty who had kept his throne amid the wreckage of the other kingdoms. Two days later Alfred brought the Danes to bay at Edington, fifteen miles south of Chippenham, and inflicted on them a resounding defeat.
"`The high tide!' King Alfred cried,
"`The high tide - and the turn.'
"Guthrum and the remnant of his army fled back to Chippenham, wherethey held out for another fortnight while Alfred seized all the horses, cattle, and men who could not find refuge in the camp. In the end, humger and terror reduced the Danes to the point of total surrender. They gave Alfred as many hostages ashe demanded, and swore to leave his kingdom.
"It is one thing to triumph on the battlefield, another to be wisely magnanimous in making peace. Three weeks after receiving their submission Alfred met Guthrum and thirty of his most important followers at Aller, where he feasted them royally. There had been hard fighting, but there should be no hard feelings. In dictating terms of peace he required only that before leaving Wessex they should receive baptism. Neither Alfred nor hisancestors had ever reigned in East Anglia, and he was content that they should keep what they had gained there provided that as Christians they did not obstruct the church in its efforts to win over the rest of the Danish population. In the autumn of this memorable year 878 the Danes moved to Cirencester, in English Mercia, and twelve months later they proceeded to the systematic occupation of East Anglia.
"Several times during the campaign the Danes, avoiding battle in the open, had sheltered in fortified strongholds, as at Wareham, Exeter, and Gloucester. At Reading they had entrenched themselves behind an earthwork which they built between the Dennet and the Thames. Their example was not lost on Alfred. He deviseda far-reaching plan of nationaly defence which was carried through to completion by his immediate successors. A document which dates from with twenty years of his death gives a list of twenty-nine burhs, boroughs or fortified strongholds, distributed over England south of the Thames, from Pilton and Lydford in the west to hastings and Southwark in the east. To the name of each burh is appended a statement of the number of hides required for its maintenance and defence, calculated atthe rate of 16 hides for an acre's breadth or 22 yards of wall. `If every hide is represented by one man, then every pole of wall (5 1/2 yds) can be manned by four men.' The still existing ramparts at Wareham and the medieval wall at Winchester strikingly confirm these measurements. Any visitor to Wallingford, Cricklade, or Wareham will be impressed by the scale on which they were laid out...
"The Chronicle states that Alfred designed an entirely new type of warship, swifter, steadier, and higher than the enemy's. We can only guess at the organization by which his navy was maintained. We do know that he engaged competent Frisian sailors, and that in at least two naval engagements he routed Viking crews.
"Guthrumwas perhaps unable to keep all his Danes under control; at all events, in 885 the Danes in East Anglia broke the peace. Alfred reacted strongly, and in the following year took London by storm. London had long been a Mercian town, and Alfred refrained from annexing it to his own kingdom. Ceowulf II, the last English king of Mercia, being now presumably dead, the part of Mercia not under Danish rule was governed by an ealdorman named Ethelred. Alfred entrusted the government of Londonto him and gave him his daughter Aethelflaed in marriage. Thus far Mercian independence was respected, but Ethelred never assumed the kingly title, and was content to reign as Alfred's viceroy. The war had raised the West Saxon king to a position of leadership recognized by all the English in the island. A silver penny bearing Alfred's name gives him the title `Rex Anglor(um)' which only the great Offa among earlier kings had ventured to assume.
"After the campaing of 886 a formal treaty between Alfred and Guthrum defined the boundary of Danish East Anglia as running from the mouth of the Thames, then up the River Lea to its source, thence in a straight line to Bedford, and then up the Ouse to Watling Street...A clause in the treaty bindsboth parties on oath not to let either slaves or freemen pass over to the otehr side without permission. Another clause appoints the same wergeld for the Danish freedman as for the English ceorl: 200 shillings in each case... Concerning the upper classes, the treaty simply provides that the same value, namely eight half-marks of pure gold, shall be placed on the life of a man who is slain, whether he is an Englishman or a Dane...
"The years of peace between887 and 893 enabled Alfred to give more time to raising the intellectual standard of his subjects. He complained that when he came to the throne not a priest south of the Thames, to the best of his recollection, could translate Latin letter into English. The decay of scholarship was hastened by the destruction of the monasteries, but even before the Danish ravages monastic life, under the system of proprietary churches, had lost much of its appeal...At Glastonbury, which like otherdecayed monasteries was in the king's hand, a company of learned irishmen, very probably encouraged by Alfred, opened a school for the sons of the nobility which later numbered Dunstan, the future archbishop, among its pupils. Alfred's own household was a school of liberal education for boys of noble birth and even for some commoners. Conscious of deficiencies in his own education, he desired that all the free-born youth of England should learn at least to read English; those destined for the priesthood might then go on to master Latin.
"Having formulated this enlightened plan, Alfred set to work to have selected passages of Latin read to him and translated into English. He determined to provide English translations of those books which he deemed most necessary for all men to know. These were the `Dialogues' of Gregory the Great on the lives of the early saints; the same pope's handbook for bishops, entitled `Pastoral Care'; the history of the world from the creation to AD 407 written in Latin by the Spaniard Orosius; Bede's `Ecclesiastical History of the English People'; the `Consolation of Philosophy' in which Boethius had shown that men need not be slaves to fate; and the Christian meditationsor `Soliloquies' of St Augustine.
"Scholars are not agreed how much of this literary work is Alfred's own. ...But the conception of the whole plan was his, and it laid the foundation of English prose literature. However much his assistants contributed, Alfred freely inserted notes and thoughts prompted by his own experience; and here the king, speaking with his own voice, unmistakably reveals himself as the master- mind. In the same preface he tells how he organized the multiplication of copies, intending to send one to every bishop in his kingdom.
"It seems likely that the same method of publication was employed to circulate the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, first put together in Alfred's time, probably at his directinstigation. Seven manuscripts of this work are extant, which fall into four groups, all virtually identical down to 891, after which they begin to diverge as further material was added from different sources of information. The Chronicle is nothing like a complete or unbiased account of early English history. It ignores or glosses over West Saxon reverses, exalts Alfred's ancestors, the fighting kings of Wessex, provides his father Ethelwulf with a grandiose pedigree tracing his descent back to Adam, and denies the status of bretwalda to any Mercian king. It must have helped consederably to put heart into Alfred's subjects when the fortunes of Wessex were at their darkest, and to convince them that in the long run their royal house would emerge victorious.
"After making a careful study of the laws promulgated by Ethelbert of Kent, Ine of Wessex, and Offa of Mercia, Alfred drew up a code with a preamble stating that he has reproduced what seemed to him thebest enactments of these earlier kings and has added a few of his own. The oldest manuscript, written, it is thought, about 925, includes the laws of Ine as an appendix; it looks as if Alfred meant them to remain in force..."
p130-141: "Alfred's Laws...
p142: "There is a wistful note in the translation of the `Soliloquies.' Alfred speaks of men living pleasantly and at ease summer and winter, `as I have not yet done.' War broke out again in 892 when a Viking fleet sailed from Boulogne and landed in two detachments, one on the southern and the other on the north shores of Kent. Although supported by the Danes of York in alliance with the North Welsh, they were unable to make any deep impression on Wessex. During the next four years they made periodical incursions into West Mercia from bases in the Danish east, and their marauding bands harried the south coast. But whenever they ventured into the open they were heavily defeated. There was never any danger now that the English defences would collapse, and Alfred slowly, not least by diplomatic moves, isolated the forces allied against him. The Danes, however, could not be dislodged from the eastern half of the island, and Alfred did not try to do so. He was content to hold his own as king of Sessex and overlord of English Mercia, recognized as leader both by the Welsh princes and by the English of the far north. The second half of the ninth century had established an uneasy balance of political and military power between the two halves of the island and this was still the situation on 26 October 899 when King Alfred died, the greatest man who had ruled in western Europe since the death of Charlemagne."
From Alfred to Henry III 871-1272, Christopher Brooke, 1961, Norton Library History of England p31-33:
"Alfred is commonly thought of today as a great pioneer, a man who planned many aspects of a united English kingdom, although he did not live to see his plans completed. But to contemporaries he must often habe appeared more like the last heir of a doomed kingdom, a man struggling to save something from the kingdom of Egbert and the inheritance of the Anglo-Saxon monarchs of the eighth century.
"By 871 most of the old-established English kingdoms had collapsed. Hitherto England had been divided into a number of kingdoms- tradition says seven, that England had been a heptarchy'; but it is impossible to point to any period in which there were precisely seven kingdoms in the land; and the word heptarchy' suggests a division of the country far tidier than ever existed in the centuries following the departure of the Romans and the Anglo-Saxon conquest...
"...In 865 [According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle] Ethelred succeeded to the kingdom of Wessex. And this same year came a great host to England and took winter-quarters in East Anglia.' In 866 the host moved into Northumbria, and in 867 into Mercia; and Burhred, king of Mercia, and his councillors begged Ethelred, king of Wessex, and his brother Alreed to help them fight against the host.' The two brothers came into Mercia the next year, but without decisive result, and 870 saw desperate fighting in Wessex itself. Three major engagements failed to give the West Saxon leaders an advantage, and after a series of minor conflicts they were compelled to make their peace with the host. It was in these circomstances that King Ethelred died, and his brother, Alfred, succeeded to the throne (871).
"In spite of the great energy with which Wessex was being defended in this year, it might have seemed only a matter of time before this kingdom, too, succumbed. The events of the following years could only confirm this impression; and in 878 the [Danish] host went secretly in midwinter [when Alfred and his followers felt secure from attack] after Twelfth Night to Chippenham, and rode over Wessex and occupied it, and drove a great part of the inhabitants oversea, and reduced the greater part of the rest, except Alfred the king; and he with a small company moved under difficulties through woods and into inaccessible places in marshes.'
"To this period of Alfred's career tradition has attached the famous story of how he was sitting in a cowherd's cottage, preparing his bow and arrows and other weapons, when the cowherd's wife saw her cakes burning in the hearth, and scolded the luckless king for not paying attention to them...
"878 proved not to be the end of English history, but, in a way, its beginning; and it is our business in this chapter to understand how this could be. When Alfred died twenty-one years later, his kingdom was still precarious; the Danes far from subdued. But Wessex was more settled, more powerful than when Alfred succeeded to the throne; he was the acknowledged leader of the English survivors throughout the south and west of the country; he had shown that Vikings could be defeated, and even baptised. The creation of a united kingdom of England was begun by Alfred's successor, and not fully achieved before the eleventh century; but many essential foundations had been laid. Much of this was due to the unique personality of Alfred. But he was helped by some of the tendencies of the situation; and also, paradoxically, by the Danes themselves.
"The Danes were farmers and pirates. Like many pirates they became in course of time great traders...But land-hunger' can be only a part of the explanation of the rapidity with which they spread all over northern and western Europe, raiding, settling, forming principalities in Russia, northern France, the British islands, and ultimately in Iceland and Greenland; even (in all probability) visiting North America...
p43-48: "At the end of March 878 Alfred and his following established themselves in a secret base among the marshes of Somerset, at Athelney; and from there resistance was planned. Alfred summoned the fyrd' or militia of Somerset, Wiltshire, and western Hampshire- that part of Wessex with which he could still keep in touch- to be ready for a rapid attack on the Danes early in May. And with these forces he fell on the Danes at Edington, pursued them to their camp, and after a fortnight's seige compelled them to surrender. Three weeks later the Danish king, Guthrum, and thirty of his leading followers were baptised in Alfred's presence.
"Decisive as was the battle of Edigton in saving Wessex from total destruction, it did not lead to any lasting peace. In the mid eight-eighties war was renewed, and this time Alfred had the opportunity to take the initiative. In 886 he captured London, and put it in charge of his close ally, Ethelred, Ealdorman of the Mercians, who shortly after married Alfred's daughter, Aethelflaed. Soon after 886 another truce was made between Alfred and Guthrum, which established a temporary frontier between Englaish and Danish England. It divided the lowland zone into two, bu drawing a line along the Thames from its mouth, skirting morth of London, then running north-west to Bedford. But it did not lead to peace. From 892 to 896 a new Danish army was at large in England; and throughout the last decade of Alfred's reign there was the threat of raids from the Danish kingdom of York.
"Alfred was never free from wars or rumours of wars. But in the last ten years of his life he was able to reorganise the English defences and establish a military organisation which saved the country from a repetition of the disastrous winter of 877-878, prepared the way for the successes of Edward the Elder and Athelstan, Alfred's son and grandson, and in some respects provided the model on which another distinguished Saxon, Henry the Fowler, repaired the defences of Germany Saxony against the Magyars a generation later.
"The Danes had the great advantage that they were highly mobile, could move great distances by sea, and very frequently achieved surprise. Alfred was concerned to meet them on their own terms. First of all, he built ships, large and swift, neither after the Frisian design nor after the Danish, but as it seemed to himself that they could be most serviceable'. The interest Alfred took in designing the ships is characteristic of his restless inquiring mind and searching imagination, and also reveals the attention to detail of the fine administrator. But the Danes were not only mobile by sea. Their armies were always in being, and could be swiftly mobilised. The disaster in 877-878 had occurred because the English militia took so long to mobilise. Alfred simplified its organisation and divided it, so that manpower was available to supply the militia, man the fortresses, and till the soil at the same time. Hitherto the militia, the fyrd', had been exceedingly reluctant to remain under arms for more than a short campaign, or to move any distance. This division meant that their work at home was not totally neglected, although we do not know how the arrangement worked in detail. A large, and perhaps increasing, part ot the English army consisted of nobles and their retinues, the more permanent military class, the thegns and their followers. A division of the thegns sismilar to that of the fyrd made longer campaigns possible for them too.
"...Another public obligation developed by Alfred was that of building and repairing fortresses- a duty incumbent on almost all holders of land. Alfred in fact began, and Edward the Elder completed, the construction of a national network of fortifications. By the early tenth century no village in Sussex, Surrey, or Wessex was more than twenty miles from one of these fortresses. They provided defence in depth against an enemy who might come from any direction- from land or sea; and they provided refuge for men and cattle against an enemy whose chief motive was plunder. The fortresses were normally large enclosures, walled towns rather than castles; and many of them were sited in, orlater became towns. Indeed, the building of the burhs (our boroughs') by Alfred and his son marked an important stage in the recovery of English towns and so in the long run of trade and economic life generally.
"Alfred's achievement in saving Wessex from the Danes and laying its defences on amore stable base was remarkable enough. What is even more remarkable is that in the brief intervals of war and defence he showed so much concern for the general welfare and for every aspect of the life of the kingdom whose very existence still lay in the balance. He had a vision of a kingdom more stable, more peaceful, and more civilised than anything he could hope to live to see. These points are remarkably illustrated by his Laws and his translations.
"The written laws of Anglo-Saxon kings were not comprehensive codes. The main body of the law was customary and unwritten. When custom had to be altered, or clarified or emphasised, it might be put in writing. The result is that the law-books brom the time of King Ethelbert of Kent to King Cnut are at once very particular and precise and very fragmentary. It appears that Alfred, in issuing his code, was reviving a custom which had not been exercised for acentury. During this perios law-making as a royal right disappeared in the French kingdom; the revival in England under Alfred may have saved it from a similar oblivion.
"Human law was felt to be a reflection of divine law. Alfred had the conviction that the divine law was the source of first principles; and that the Bible, which contained the divine law, might provide texts of more particular application too. Alfred's laws have a long introduction attempting to tie English law on to Biblical (Mosaic) law and the law of the early Church, as deduced from the Acts of the Apostles. The rest of the book is an attempt to select and record what was valuable and necessary from earlier collections. Then I, King Alfred, 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, and ordered them to be differently observed. For I dared not presume to set in writing at all many of my own, because it was unknown to me what should please those who should come after us. But those which I found anywhere, which seemed to me most just, either of the time of my kinsman, King Ine [688-726], or of Offa, King of the Mercians [757-796], or of Ethelbert [King of Kent 560-616], who first among the English received baptism, I collected herein, and omitted the others. Then I, Alfred, King of the West Saxons, showed these to all my councillors, and they then said that they were all pleased to observed them'...
"...Judge thou very fairly. Do not judge one judgement for the rich and another for the poor; nor one for the one more dear and another for the one more hateful.' This sentiment was introduced by Alfred into the introduction to his Laws from the Book of Exodus; but the sentence has been a good deal elaborated in the course of translation, and has become a full expression of one of Alfred's basic beliefs...
"His unique importance in the history of English letters,' writes Sir Frank Stenton, comes from his conviction that a life without knowledge or reflection was unworthy of respect, and his determination to bring the thought of the past within the range of his subjects' understanding.'
"Here is Alfred's own account of the genesis of his translation of Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care', a manual on the office of a bishop. When I remembered how the knowledge of the Latin language had previously decayed throughout England, and yet many could read things written in English, I began in the midst of the other various and manifold cares of this kingdom to turn into English the book which is called in Latin Pastoralis' and in English Shepherd-book', sometimes word for word, sometimes by a paraphrase; as I had learned it from my Archbishop Plegmund, and my Bishop Asser, and my priest Grimbald and my priest John. When I had learned it, I turned it into English according as I understood it and as I could render it most intelligibly; and I will send one to every see in my kingdom.'
"This describes, in a nutshell, Alfred's concern and his method. His subjects were ignorant of Latin. The treasures of ancient literature must be trranslated. He himself had neither time nor the fluency in Latin to translate alone; so he presided over a seminar of learned men who assisted and advised him. It is an astonishing story. A warrior king on his own initiative feels the lack of learning in himself and his people; struggles to learn to read and write; collects scholars; presides over their work and as time passes hemself takes a hand in it; founds schools in which not only churchmen but laymen, too, may learn. His immediate success was slight- there was too much ground to be covered; his lay followers were not accustomed to learning and not seriously amenable to it. But on a longer view the achievement was extremely impressive.
"Alfred's own childhood had accustomed him to the existence of a great European heritage: as a small boy he had twice been on a pilgrimage to Rome. But it was only gradually that he worked out his programme and collected his band of acholars. He had to search widely for them. Plegmund and Werferth were native Englishmen. Grimbald came from the north of France, John from the north of Germany, Asser from Wales. All took a hand in the work of translation.
"Gregory's Pastoral Care' was throughout the Middle Ages the fundamental book on the duty of a bishop- and of special interest to Alfred in stressing the responsibility of a bishop for educating laymen. Gregory's
Dialogues' contained miracle stories, especially the miracles of St Benedict, author of the famous monastic rule. Its choice reflected Alfred's desire to see monasticism re-established. The library of translations also included two distinguished works of history, the English history of Bede, and the world history of Orosius...Finally he turned his hand to two books of more personal interest to him. Boethius had written his Consolations of Philosophy' while awaiting execution at the hands of the Goths. Its comforts seemed specially appropriate to Alfred's own circumstances. And in his rendering of St Augustine's soliloquies, the book in which he departed most freely from his original, Alfred expounded his philosophy of learning...He tells how he had been, as it were, a forester cutting timber in the wood of ancient knowledge.
p49: "...Alfred's positive achievements, however sensational, did not give Wessex stability or permanent security. His work would have foundered if he had not been succeeded by a line of able kings. It was carried on, and in certain respects completed, by his remarkably able descendents, notably by his son Edward, his grandson Athelstan (King 924-939) and his great-grandson Athelstan's nephew, Edgar (959-975). After Edgar's death the thone passes to lesser men, and the long rule of Ethelred II (978-1016) coincided with the renewal of Danish attacks. With Ethelred the dynasty collapsed, though not, as we shall see, the kingdom.
p50: "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' had hitherto devoted most space to the doints of the heathen', the host'- that is, the Danes. First compiled in the reign of Alfred, not perhaps under his direct inspiration, but clearly reflect- ing the literary revival of his time, its main entries for the mid and late ninth century tell the tale of attack and disaster in plain, unemotional, but effective prose. In Alfred's later years more is said of the King's activities; one senses the feeling that at last the initiative is shifting..."
The Wall Chart of World History, Edward Hull, 1988, Studio Editions, England 871: "King of England 871-901, Alfred the Great, Prosperous Reign, Alfred was
anointed' king the 1st in England..."
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 or 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. ("The Genealogy of Homer Beers James", V1, JANDA Consultants, © 1993 Homer James) The following genealogy of Alfred was taken from the cite noted; howerver, the line indicated in this genealogical study bypasses certain individuals between Alfred and Woden based on other documents (specifically, the lineage recorded at www.britannia.com). "His genealogy is traced in the following order. King Alfred was the son of king Ethelwulf, who was the son of Egbert, who was the son of Elmund, was the son of Eafa, who was the son of Eoppa, who the son of Ingild. Ingild, and Ina, the famous king of the West-Saxons, were two brothers. Ina went to Rome, and there ending this life honourably, entered the heavenly kingdom, to reign there for ever with Christ. Ingild and Ina were the sons of Coenred, who was the son of Ceolwald, who was the son of Cudam, who was the son of Cuthwin, who was the son of Ceawlin, who was the son of Cynric, who was the son of Creoda, who was the son of Cerdic, who was the son of Elesa, who was the son of Gewis, from whom the Britons name all that nation Gegwis, who was the son of Brond, who was the son of Beldeg, who was the son of Woden, who was the son of Frithowald, who was the son of Frealaf, who was the son of Frithuwulf, who was the son of Finn of Godwulf, who was the son of Gear [sic], which Geat the pagans long worshipped as a god. Sedulius makes mention of him in his metrical Paschal poem, as follows: When gentile poets with their fictions vain, In tragic language and bombastic strain, To their god Geat, comic deity, Loud praises sing, &c. "Geat was the son of Taetwa, who was the son of Beaw, who was the son of Sceldi, who was the son of Heremod, who was the son of Itermon, who was the son of Hathra, who was the son of Guala, who was the son of Bedwig, who was the son of Shem, who was the son of Noah, who was the son of Lamech, who was the son of Methusalem, who was the son of Enoch, who was the son of Malaleci, who was the son of Cainian, who was the son of Enos, who was the son of Seth, who was the son of Adam. "The mother of Alfred was named Osburga, a religious woman, noble both by birth and by nature; she was daughter of Oslac, the famous butler of king Ethtelwulf, which Oslac was a Goth by nation, descended from the Goths and Jutes, of the seed, namely, of Stuf and Whitgar, two brothers and counts; who, having received possession of the Isle of Wight from their uncle, King Cerdic, and his son Cynric their cousin, slew the few British inhabitants whom they could find in that island, at a place called Gwihtgaraburgh; for the other inhabitants of the island had either been slain, or escaped into exile." ("The Life of King Alfred by Asser, Bishop of Sherborne. Originally composed in Latin, prossibly sometime around 888 A.D. by the Monk and Bishop Asser, although some scholars contend that the work was actually composed much later by an unknown hand. Translation by Dr. J.A. Giles (London, 1847). The text of this edition is based on that published as "Six Old English Chronicles", translated and edited by Dr. J.A. Giles (London, 1847). This edition is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN in the United States. This electronic edition was edited, proofed, and prepared by Douglas B. Killings (DeTroyes@@EnterAct.COM), January 1997.) In 866, a large Danish army wintered in East Anglia, making peace with that kingdom's inhabitants. The next year that army crossed over the Northumbria, and in this way that kingdom fell to Danish control. In 868, the army of Danes went into Mercia of King Burhred, who invited King ∆thelred of Wessex, Kent, Essex, and Sussex and his younger brother Alfred to come help him against the Danes. The West Saxon army entered Mercia, but no large battle was fought. In 869 the Danish army retreated to York in Northumbria. In 870, the army again returned to East Anglia through Mercia, and there King Edmund of the Angles fought with them, but was defeated and slain. In 871, the Danish army entered Wessex, and even after a major battle between ∆thelred, Alfred, and the Danes at Reading, the Danish army kept the field. Later that year the Danes were overcome at Ashdown by the king and his brother. All in this year as well, the English were defeated at Basing and at Marden. King ∆thelred died this year after Easter, and was succeeded in all kingdoms by Alfred. Within a month of becomming king in 871, Alfred defeated a large Danish force at Wilton. By the end of this long year, the West Saxons made peace with the Danes. In 873, the Mercians made peace with the Danes. In 874, the Danes moved to Repton and conquered all of Mercia, sending away King Burhred, and they gave the kingdom to one Ceolwulf. In 875, the Danes went from Repton into Northumbria, subduing that land and invading the Picts of Scotland. Alfred won many sea battles this year. In 876, the Danes took a West Saxon fort, but Alfred made peace with them. In 877, Alfred lost many battles, sea and land, to the Danes. In 878, the Danes invaded Wessex, but Alfred drove them out with many loses. Then the Danes left to invade the Franks, and in 882 many ships were defeated by Alfred. In 885 the massive Danish army divided, one part going east, the other to Rochester. Alfred defended the city and defeated the Danes. In 893, much of the Danish army that had been in Gaul returned to England. In 894, Alfred won many major victories over the Danes. In 897, the Danes retreated back out of the English nation into the Danelaw, the area of Britain which they held, and two years later Alfred died and was succeeded by his son Edward. This is how the island of Britain was then divided: England was divided into two subkingdoms, Wessex (including all of the south of the Island, including Kent et al.) and West Mercia. The Welsh princes held all of Wales, including those principalities of Powys, Gwynedd, Gwent, Morgannwg, Dfyed, etc. The Danelaw was divided into the Kingdom of York in the north, Danish Mercia in the middle, and East Anglia in the south east. The British kingdom of Strathclyde still existed in the north west, and in the far north of Scotland the Picts and Scots were united under one crown. [Internet source: http://www.ghg.net/shetler/oldimp/393.html] Alfred the Great, king of England, was the youngest son of Ethelwolf, king of the West Saxons, and was born at Wantage, Berks, in 849. He was sent to Rome when five years old, and three years later went again with his father and stayed a year. On the death of his brother Ethelred, Alfred succeeded to the throne of England, 871, in his 22nd year, at a time when his kingdom was a prey to domestic dissensions, and to the invasions of the Danes, whom he engaged at Wilton and in several other battles during the first year of his reign, but was forced to conclude a treaty on disadvantageous terms. The Danes, however, continued to over-run the country, and conquered Mercia and Northumbria. Alfred defeated them at sea, in 875, again made peace with them in the following year, and in 877 recovered Exeter from them. Soon afterwards he retired to the island of Athelney, and there received information that one of his chiefs had obtained a great victory over the Danes, and taken their magical standard. Alfred is said to have disguised himself as a harper, entered the Danish camp, and gained a knowledge of the state of the enemy. Quitting his retreat he besieged the Danes at Ethandune (Edington) in 878, and completely defeated them. Yet the terms of peace included the cession to them of a large part of the kingdom, and prepared the way for the enterprise of Canute. The king Guthrun and his followers professed themselves Christians, and were baptized. Alfred now put his kingdom into a state of defence, increased his navy, and brought London into a flourishing state; but after a rest of some years, an immense number of Northmen, under the leadership of Hasting, landed in Kent, and fortified themselves at Appledore and Milton; they were, however, defeated by Alfred at Farnham, Bemfleet, and Buttington. Thus he secured the peace of his dominions, and struck terror into his enemies, after 56 battles by sea and land, in all of which he was personally engaged. But the warlike exploits of Alfred formed, perhaps, the least of the services he rendered his country. He was so exact in his government, that robbery was unheard of. His great council, consisting of bishops, earls, aldermen, and thanes, was called together twice a year in London, Oxford, or Gloucester, for the better government of the realm. The state of learning in his time was so low, that, from the Thames to the Humber, scarcely a man could be found who understood the service of the Church, or could translate a sentence of Latin into English. To remedy this evil, he invited men of learning from all quarters, and placed them at the head of schools in various parts of his kingdom. The laws published by Alfred were chiefly selections from those previously existing, those of Ethelbert, Ina, and Offa. Alfred himself wrote several works, and translated others from the Latin, particularly the General History of Orosius, and BoŽthius's 'Consolations of Philosophy.' He divided the twenty-four hours into three equal parts, one devoted to the service of God, another to public affairs, and the third to rest and refreshment; his revenue, also, was divided into two equal moieties, one dedicated to sacred, the other to civil uses. To Alfred, England is indebted for the foundation of her fleet. To crown his great public character, Alfred is described as one of the most amiable men in private life; of a temper serene and cheerful, affable, kind, and not averse to society, or to innocent recreation ; he was also personally well-favoured, possessing a handsome and vigorous form, and a dignified and engaging aspect. Died October, 901, and was buried at Winchester. We conclude our notice of this great man in the words of Sir James Mackintosh: 'Although it be an infirmity of every nation to ascribe their institutions to the contrivance of a man rather than to the slow action of time and circumstances, yet the selection of Alfred by the English people, as the founder of all that was dear to them, is surely the strongest proof of the deep impression left on the minds of all of his transcendant wisdom and virtue.' [Internet source: http://midas.ac.uk/genuki/big/royalty/kinga.html#Alfred]
Alfred married Queen Ealhswyth ENGLAND, daughter of Ealdorman Ethelred Mucil GAINAI and Eadburh FADBURN, about 867-868. (Queen Ealhswyth ENGLAND was born about 851-852 in , Mercia, England and died about 5 Dec 904-905.)