Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great
Statue d'Alfred le Grand à Winchester.jpg
Statue of Alfred the Great by Hamo Thornycroft in Winchester, unveiled during the millennial commemoration of Alfred's death
King of Wessex
Reign23 April 871 – c. 886
PredecessorÆthelred I
(as King of the Anglo-Saxons)
King of the Anglo-Saxons
Reignc. 886 – 26 October 899
(as King of Wessex)
SuccessorEdward the Elder
Wantage, Berkshire[a]
Died26 October 899 (aged 50 or 51)
Burialc. 1100
IssueÆthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians
Edward, King of Wessex
Æthelgifu, abbess of Shaftesbury
Ælfthryth, Countess of Flanders
Æthelweard of Wessex
FatherÆthelwulf, King of Wessex

Alfred the Great (Old English: Ælfrēd,[b] Ælfrǣd,[c] "elf counsel" or "wise elf"; between 847 and 849 – 26 October 899) was King of Wessex from 871 to c. 886 and King of the Anglo-Saxons from c. 886 to 899. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex. His father died when he was young and three of Alfred's brothers reigned in turn. Alfred took the throne after the death of his brother Æthelred and spent several years dealing with Viking invasions. He won a decisive victory in the Battle of Edington in 878 and made an agreement with the Vikings, creating what was known as Danelaw in the North of England. Alfred also oversaw the conversion of Viking leader Guthrum. He successfully defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, and he became the dominant ruler in England.[1] He was also the first King of the West Saxons to style himself "King of the Anglo-Saxons". Details of his life are described in a work by 9th-century Welsh scholar and bishop Asser.

Alfred had a reputation as a learned and merciful man of a gracious and level-headed nature who encouraged education, proposing that primary education be conducted in English rather than Latin, and improving his kingdom's legal system, military structure, and his people's quality of life. He was given the epithet "the Great" during and after the Reformation in the sixteenth century. The only other king of England given this epithet is Cnut the Great. In 2002, Alfred was ranked number 14 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.


Alfred's father Æthelwulf in the early fourteenth-century Genealogical Roll of the Kings of England

Alfred was born in the royal estate of Wantage, historically in Berkshire but now in Oxfordshire between 847 and 849.[2][d] He was the youngest of five sons of King Æthelwulf of Wessex by his first wife, Osburh.

In 853 Alfred is reported by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to have been sent to Rome where he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV, who "anointed him as king".[4] Victorian writers later interpreted this as an anticipatory coronation in preparation for his eventual succession to the throne of Wessex. This is unlikely; his succession could not have been foreseen at the time as Alfred had three living elder brothers. A letter of Leo IV shows that Alfred was made a "consul"; a misinterpretation of this investiture, deliberate or accidental, could explain later confusion.[5] It may also be based on Alfred's later having accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Rome where he spent some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, around 854–855.

On their return from Rome in 856 Æthelwulf was deposed by his son Æthelbald. With civil war looming the magnates of the realm met in council to hammer out a compromise. Æthelbald would retain the western shires (i.e. historical Wessex), and Æthelwulf would rule in the east. When King Æthelwulf died in 858 Wessex was ruled by three of Alfred's brothers in succession: Æthelbald, Æthelberht and Æthelred.[6]

Bishop Asser tells the story of how as a child Alfred won as a prize a book of Saxon poems, offered by his mother to the first of her children able to memorize it.[7] Legend also has it that the young Alfred spent time in Ireland seeking healing. Alfred was troubled by health problems throughout his life. It is thought that he may have suffered from Crohn's disease.[8] Statues of Alfred in Winchester and Wantage portray him as a great warrior. Evidence suggests he was not physically strong and, though not lacking in courage, he was noted more for his intellect than as a warlike character.[9]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Alfred die Grote
Ænglisc: Ælfrēd Micela
asturianu: Alfredu'l Grande
azərbaycanca: Böyük Alfred
تۆرکجه: آلفرد بزرق
Bân-lâm-gú: Alfred Tāi-ông
башҡортса: Бөйөк Альфред
беларуская: Альфрэд Вялікі
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Альфрэд Вялікі
български: Алфред Велики
bosanski: Alfred Veliki
brezhoneg: Alfred Veur
čeština: Alfréd Veliký
Cymraeg: Alffred Fawr
français: Alfred le Grand
Gaeilge: Ailfrid Mór
հայերեն: Ալֆրեդ Մեծ
hrvatski: Alfred Veliki
Bahasa Indonesia: Alfred yang Agung
ქართული: ალფრედ დიდი
қазақша: Ұлы Альфред
Kiswahili: Alfredi Mkuu
latviešu: Alfrēds Lielais
Lëtzebuergesch: Alfred de Groussen
lietuvių: Alfredas Didysis
македонски: Алфред Велики
Malagasy: Alfred Lehibe
मराठी: आल्फ्रिड
مازِرونی: گت آلفرد
Nederlands: Alfred de Grote
norsk nynorsk: Alfred den store
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Buyuk Alfred
پنجابی: الفریڈ اعظم
português: Alfredo de Wessex
română: Alfred cel Mare
Simple English: Alfred the Great
slovenčina: Alfréd Veľký
slovenščina: Alfred Veliki
српски / srpski: Alfred Veliki
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Alfred Veliki
தமிழ்: ஆல்பிரட்
татарча/tatarça: Бөек Альфред
українська: Альфред I Великий
Tiếng Việt: Alfred Đại đế