Alfred the Great
849 - 899
Alfred fought off the Danish invasion of Englandby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
The title given to Alfred characterizes his life well. Unlike many other kings, Alfred truly earned the title “the Great”. He was courageous, selfless, and devoted to protecting England and making it prosper.
Alfred was born in 849 AD, a difficult time for England. The Danes constantly threatened England, making frequent invasions into the countries. Alfred began his campaigns against the Danes even before he had gained the throne. His brother Ethelred ruled England at that time. Along with his brother, Alfred fought off the Danes as they invaded England.
In 868, he married the daughter of the former king of Mercia, Ealswih, which was a positive step for the English diplomacy. Ealswih’s sister later became queen of Mercia, which would strengthen England further.
About this time, Alfred and Ethelred attempted to drive the Danes out of Mercia, but their attempts were suppressed. They fought several battles against the Danes, but neither side seemed to prevail for a while. Then, the English won a war against them at Ashdown, which was a significant blow to the Danes. This victory gave the English some advantage over the Danes.
Ethelred died in April of 871, and Alfred ascended to the throne in his place. With the coronation of Alfred, England took a turn for the better. Several wars were lost near the beginning of his reign, which forced the English to make negotiations with the Danes instead of completely driving them out, but Alfred rejected the idea of capitulating to the Danes.
Alfred built defenses and strengthened already-existing ones to help England better defend against the Danes. This proved to be effective, and helped avert many of the forays the Danes made into England.
Alfred not only planned and led wars, but involved himself in them, often dangerously risking his life. He is said to have infiltrated a Danish camp undercover as a minstrel to listen in on their plans- he could easily have been found out and killed. He also led a fugitive life after a defeat, leading a band of men to safety.
Although the Danes tenaciously attempted to invade England, Alfred finally put an end to their invasions by winning a decisive victory at Eddington. As a result, the Danes agreed to cease their aggressions. Alfred designated a piece of land to be the Danelaw, an area where Danes and Saxons (the English) could live equally and at peace with each other. Guthrum, the Danish king, and some of his subjects were baptized.
While a great strategist and warrior, Alfred was also a devoted scholar. He encouraged education throughout England, building a court school and translating several books. He also learned Latin himself.
Alfred died in 899 at the age of fifty.
Alfred was truly a great king. He was a skillful warrior without being a warmonger, and he not only warred but taught his people to be literate. He was faithful in all that he did, and his efforts were evidently blessed by God. The kingdom prospered so much under his leadership that and England would rarely see many kings as great and successful as he.
Alfred the Great - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great
BBC - History - King Alfred (849-899) http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/alfred_king.shtml
Catholic Encyclopedia: Alfred the Great, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01309d.htm