It features the king as a young man, holding a shield in his left hand and an open book in his right. God bless and keep him. It was late in the year 871 when the 23-year-old Alfred, newly-appointed king of the last free Saxon kingdom in Britain, sat down for peace talks with two sons of Ragnar Lothbrok and other leaders of the Great Heathen Army. As described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, this proved successful as the ships were larger, steadier and swifter in the water, using a design inspired by the Greek and Roman warships which were designed as fighting ships with high sides, instead of low sided vessels deemed fit only for navigation. Alfred 26 Nov 2020. Thank you! Alfred at this point had no choice but to pay the Viking commanders a large sum to leave Wessex. , Nevertheless, 897 clearly marked an important development in the naval power of Wessex. For example, Wallingford had a hidage of 2,400, which meant that the landowners there were responsible for supplying and feeding 2,400 men, the number sufficient for maintaining 9,900 feet (3.0 kilometres) of wall. He is the best-known Anglo-Saxon king in British history thanks to his biographer Asser (died c. 909 CE) and that work’s impact on later writers. Aelle † (Grandfather)Ealhswith † (Grandmother)Ecgberht † (Uncle)Blaeja † (Aunt)Aethelwulf † (Granduncle)Unnamed Granduncle † (Granduncle)Aethelwulf † (Step-Father)Ecbert † (Step-Grandfather) Asser, in his Vita Ælfredi asserts that this shows his lineage from the Jutes of the Isle of Wight. , The means by which the Anglo-Saxons marshalled forces to defend against marauders also left them vulnerable to the Vikings. Aethelred † (Maternal Half-Brother) The Vikings swore an oath of peace upon a sacred arm ring. , This revival entailed the recruitment of clerical scholars from Mercia, Wales and abroad to enhance the tenor of the court and of the episcopacy; the establishment of a court school to educate his own children, the sons of his nobles, and intellectually promising boys of lesser birth; an attempt to require literacy in those who held offices of authority; a series of translations into the vernacular of Latin works the king deemed "most necessary for all men to know"; the compilation of a chronicle detailing the rise of Alfred's kingdom and house, with a genealogy that stretched back to Adam, thus giving the West Saxon kings a biblical ancestry. The author of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle related that Alfred's ships were larger, swifter, steadier and rode higher in the water than either Danish or Frisian ships. Local people either surrendered or escaped (Hampshire people fled to the Isle of Wight), and the West Saxons were reduced to hit and run attacks seizing provisions when they could. His eldest brother, Æthelstan, was old enough to be appointed sub-king of Kent in 839, almost 10 years before Alfred was born.  The pursuit of wisdom, he assured his readers of the Boethius, was the surest path to power: "Study wisdom, then, and, when you have learned it, condemn it not, for I tell you that by its means you may without fail attain to power, yea, even though not desiring it". It is for his valiant defence of his kingdom against a stronger enemy, for securing peace with the Vikings and for his farsighted reforms in the reconstruction of Wessex and beyond, that Alfred - alone of all the English kings and queens - is known as 'the Great'. The English watched as the Vikings rowed past them, but they suffered so many casualties (120 dead against 62 Frisians and English) that they had difficulty putting out to sea. The invaders brought their wives and children with them indicating a meaningful attempt at conquest and colonisation. The story of King Alfred burning the cakes is well known. For the next five years, the Danes occupied other parts of England. Although the character of Judith is portrayed as caring and concerned for her son, no mention is made of Alfred's mother's impact on his literacy. A religiously devout and pragmatic man who learnt Latin in his late thirties, he recognised that the general deterioration in learning and religion caused by the Vikings' destruction of monasteries (the centres of the rudimentary education network) had serious implications for rulership. Most of the information we have on Alfred is gleaned from the writings of Asser, a 10th century scholar and bishop from Wales. Alfred’s Burghal System seems to have been adapted from the Carolingian precepts. In early 878, the Danes led by King Guthrum seized Chippenham in Wiltshire in a lightning strike and used it as a secure base from which to devastate Wessex. [c] Their children were Æthelflæd, who married Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians; Edward the Elder, his successor as king; Æthelgifu, abbess of Shaftesbury; Ælfthryth, who married Baldwin, count of Flanders; and Æthelweard. , Manuscript production in England dropped off precipitously around the 860s when the Viking invasions began in earnest, not to be revived until the end of the century. Please support Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation. Later historians, especially during the Victorian Age, would consider him the most perfect king of the Middle Ages for his piety, justice, and noble vision of a better future for his people.  Details of his life are described in a work by 9th-century Welsh scholar and bishop Asser. The mercy that Christ infused into Mosaic law underlies the injury tariffs that figure so prominently in barbarian law codes since Christian synods "established, through that mercy which Christ taught, that for almost every misdeed at the first offence secular lords might with their permission receive without sin the monetary compensation which they then fixed".  After travelling up the River Stour, the fleet was met by Danish vessels that numbered 13 or 16 (sources vary on the number), and a battle ensued. Alfred, thanks to Ubbe's subtle strategy, led his army to victory at the battle of Marton, which saved his crown and Wessex from the viking peril. "Alfred the Great." Alive It was unveiled in June 1913 to commemorate the coronation of King George V., A statue of Alfred the Great, situated in the Wantage market place, was sculpted by Count Gleichen, a relative of Queen Victoria, and unveiled on 14 July 1877 by the Prince and Princess of Wales. Now, he was greatly loved, more than all his brothers, by his father and mother—indeed, by everybody—with a universal and profound love, and he was always brought up in the royal court and nowhere else...[He] was seen to be more comely in appearance than his other brothers, and more pleasing in manner, speech and behaviour...[and] in spite of all the demands of the present life, it has been the desire for wisdom, more than anything else, together with the nobility of his birth, which have characterized the nature of his noble mind. Some retired to Northumbria, some to East Anglia. This date has been accepted by the editors of Asser's biography, Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge, and by other historians such as David Dumville and Richard Huscroft. Elsewith (Wife) The Alfredian burh represented a stage in the evolution of English medieval towns and boroughs. He was known to chase many women in is younger years, from household servants to ladies of standing. In 886, Alfred negotiated a partition treaty with the Danes, in which a frontier was demarcated along the Roman Watling Street and northern and eastern England came under the jurisdiction of the Danes - an area known as 'Danelaw'. Early in the 880’s CE, Alfred implemented innovations which included a restructuring of the network of towns and cities. Alfred and king Aethelwulf seemingly accepts their offer, but Heahmund arranges to have the brothers humiliated. The conflict raged on with Alfred making a strategic calculation to blockade Danish ships, forcing the Vikings to withdraw to Mercia. He then pursued the Danes to their stronghold at Chippenham and starved them into submission. In 870 CE reinforcements for the Great Army arrived from Scandinavia and Halfdane led his forces to take Wallingford, ravage Mercia, and drive on into Wessex the next year. His father died when he was young.  878 was the nadir of the history of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. All penalties took the form of fines except for those which involved crimes of treachery or treason. Alfred has a vision in which Athelstan tells him the Vikings are in York, so King Aethelwulf joins forces with Bishop Heahmund. Alfred the Great.  Guthrum's death changed the political landscape for Alfred.  The double-burh blocked passage on the river, forcing Viking ships to navigate under a garrisoned bridge lined with men armed with stones, spears, or arrows. , Alfred died on 26 October 899 at the age of 50 or 51. First, he organised his army (the thegns, and the existing militia known as the fyrd) on a rota basis, so he could raise a 'rapid reaction force' to deal with raiders whilst still enabling his thegns and peasants to tend their farms. The most famous of these is the story of Alfred and the burnt cakes, which comes from The Life of St. Neot. Prince Alfred has a vision in which Athelstan tells him the Vikings are in York, so Æthelred, Alfred and Aethelwulf joins forces with Bishop Heahmund. to commemorate the battle of ethandun fought in this vicinity may 878 ad when king alfred the great defeated the viking army, giving birth to the english nationhood.
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