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 millenary commemoration of Alfred's death.
King of the Anglo-Saxons
Reign 23 April 871 – 26 October 899
Predecessor Æthelred
Successor Edward the Elder
Born 849
Wantage, then in Berkshire, now Oxfordshire
Died 26 October 899 (around 50) Winchester
Burial c. 1100
Hyde Abbey, Winchester, Hampshire, now lost
Spouse Ealhswith
Issue Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians
Edward, King of Wessex
Æthelgifu, abbess of Shaftesbury
Æthelweard of Wessex
Ælfthryth, Countess of Flanders
Full name
Ælfred of Wessex
House Wessex
Father Æthelwulf, King of Wessex
Mother Osburh
Religion Catholic

Alfred the Great ( Old English: Ælfrēd, [a] Ælfrǣd [b], "elf counsel" or "wise elf"; 849 – 26 October 899) was King of Wessex from 871 to 899.

Alfred was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex. Taking the throne after the death of his brother Æthelred, Alfred spent several years dealing with Viking invasions. After a decisive victory in the Battle of Edington in 878 Alfred made a deal with the Vikings, creating what was known as Danelaw in the North of England. Alfred also oversaw the conversion of the Viking leader, Guthrum.

Alfred successfully defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, and by the time of his death had become the dominant ruler in England. [1] He is one of only two English monarchs to be given the epithet "the Great", the other being the Scandinavian Cnut the Great. He was also the first King of the West Saxons to style himself " King of the Anglo-Saxons". Details of Alfred's life are described in a work by the 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 taught in English rather than Latin, and improved his kingdom's legal system, military structure and his people's quality of life. In 2002 Alfred was ranked number 14 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.


Alfred was born in the village of Wanating, now Wantage, historically in Berkshire but now in Oxfordshire. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex by his first wife, Osburh. [c]

In 853, at the age of four, 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". [3] 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. [4] 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. [5]

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. [6] 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. [7] 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. [8]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Alfred die Grote
Ænglisc: Ælfrēd Micela
asturianu: Alfredu'l Grande
azərbaycanca: Böyük Alfred
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