Aelfred (the Great)


b. 849, Wantage, Berkshire
d. 26 Oct 899 (initially buried at Winchester) [1]

Title: Rex (King) (see note on royal styles)
Term: after 15 Apr 871 - 26 Oct 899
Chronology: after 15 Apr 871, acceded after the death of his brother, Æthelred; not consecrated [?] (see note on consecrations)
  26 Oct 899, died
Names/titles: Also spelled in Old English as Ælfræd; modern English: Alfred; byname: the Great

Ælfred was the youngest of the five sons of King Æthelwulf of Wessex. He journeyed to Rome twice as a child, in 853 and 855, where he is said (in retrospect) to have been consecrated king (853). Ælfred aided his brother, King Æthelred, to fight the invading Danes in 871 and distinguished himself in the Battle of Ashdown. When Æthelred died after Easter (15 Apr) 871, Ælfred assumed the kingship. In 875-876 Wessex was attacked by the Danish hosts, who occupied Wareham and Exeter. Ælfred reacted vigorously to these attacks, but late in 877 the Danes forced him to flee to the Somerset marshes. In May 878 Ælfred reassembled his army and won a great victory at Edington. He received the submission of Æthelred, ealdorman of the Mercians (c. 880) and was acknowledged as ruler of the English, perhaps from c. 880. At about the same time, Ælfred signed a treaty with Guthrum, king of the East Angles, laying down the boundaries of the Danelaw. After a temporary settlement was achieved with the Danes, Ælfred developed a system of defense based around fortified strongholds (burhs) and reorganized his army. He also began to encourage a revival in learning and in religious affairs, setting up schools, translating himself books into English. After studying the principles of lawgiving, Ælfred promulgated an important code of laws. In 885 he repelled an invasion of Kent by a Danish army, supported by the East Anglian Danes. In 886 Ælfred's army took the offensive and captured London, a success which brought him a recognition as 'king of the Anglo-Saxons'. The last years of his reign Ælfred resisted attacks of Danish forces. Biography sources: [2][3][4][5][6]

[1] "The Date of King Alfred's Death", by W.H. Stevenson, in ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW, 13 (1898): 71-77.
[2] Handbook of British Chronology (1986)
[3] "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," ed. and trans. by G.N. Garmonsway (Everyman Press, London, 1953, reissued 1972, 1994).
[4] "The Blackwell Encyclopædia of Anglo-Saxon England", ed. by Michael Lapidge (Oxford, Blackwell, 1999).
[5] "Alfred the Great," ed. and trans. by Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge (Penguin Classics, London, 1983).
[6] "The Regnal Dates of Alfred, Edward the Elder, and Athelstan," by Murray L. R. Beaven in ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW, 32 (1917): 517-531.
  Image: coin of Ælfred the Great (obverse legend: ÆLFRED REX).
Last updated on: 14 Mar 2010 03:55:46