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Alfred the Great College: Sponsor Licence nº 3B59NTYB4

Alfred the Great King of England
Born into the royal family of Wessex in 849, Alfred is the only English King to be granted the epithet ‘Great,’ and the first to style himself king of the Anglo Saxons, in essence, King of all England.

With several brothers standing before him, Alfred was originally destined for the church but on the death in battle of the last of these, Aethelred, in 871, the young prince ascended the throne of Wessex in 871.

The reign that opened with the year of the nine battles saw Wessex and the other Saxon kingdoms at constant war with the Danish marauders under their King Guthrum, and after his defeat by Alfred at Ethandune (Edington) in 878 and near forced conversion to Christianity, his heirs.

Before this famous English battle confined the Danish king into his East Anglian conquests (The Danelaw), Alfred’s fortunes had fallen so low that he was a fugitive clinging to power with a few adherents in the marshes of the west country. It was here that the famous fable of the King who burnt the cakes occurred. Bidden by the cook to watch the cooking griddle, Alfred’s attention wandered and the valuable food was spoiled. The returning domestic berated her Lord who meekly accepted the blame, restraining his followers who had loyally sprung to his defence.

Further military success added considerable territory to the Kingdom of Wessex and enabled its King to retake the Roman town of Londinium from the Danes in 886. The ancient walls were restored, quays along the river built and the laying out of a new street plan. Most important of all the near deserted future capital was re-populated.

There is a plaque near Southwark Bridge that commemorates this major moment in London’s history.

It was about this time that Alfred assumed the title of ‘King of the Anglo-Saxons’ and it marks the new-found security of his rule.

Alfred’s claim to true greatness is founded on the diversity of the reforms that turned his realm from a victim for the preying Danish invader into a well-organised military foe capable for the first time of defeating the ‘Northmen’ in pitched battle.

Heavy taxation funded a rebuilt and restructured standing army, the construction of forts and defences and the beginnings of the English navy. This last, earned Alfred another title, that of ‘Father of the English Navy’.

Taxation led to legal reform and Alfred gathered together in cohesion the laws of his predecessors with his own innovation, including a lengthy introduction.

As a religious man; he is a saint of the Catholic Church and a Hero of the Anglican communion with a feast day on 26th October; his interests leaned strongly towards education and he devoted much of his energy to reviving learning and widening literacy in his lands. He recruited scholars and founded a school at his court for his own children, those of his nobles and promising boys of non-noble birth.

A beacon in the dark Ages, he oversaw the translation of classical texts into the new vernacular of English – many of the translation including works by Pope Gregory the Great and Boethius were by his own hand. At a time when scholarship was severely under threat in a society that had been fighting for survival since the 860’s his influence was indispensable in the preservation of culture and learning in these islands.

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