King Alfred was remembered as a great king, though we was an unlikely one.
Alfred did not like the idea of ruling, had four older brothers, and overall seemed disinterested in the idea; he preferred poetry. His mother encouraged him to pursue learning, but records show him in the military as a young man. (1) He did end up becoming king of Wessex and spent much of his life fighting instead of following his passions as a young man. His love of learning would not die, but instead would make him a great paragon of learning and bring about much advancement for the English people. However, the world he lived in was full of conflict. This conflict was caused by the decades of Danish invasions of England as part of the viking era. (2) His succession to the throne of Wessex was even more important because the line of Wessex kings eventually became the line of the kings of England in general. (9)
Though King Alfred did not seem to enjoy the military and leadership lifestyle, he was good at it. He was able to take London back from the Danish invaders.. He also succeeded in halting danish advancement through the building of strategic forts in defensible locations. He designed his own ships to fight the Danish in the sea. Using good diplomacy, his relationship with other English kings allowed him to form greater forces to repel the Danes as well.( 3)It was his ability to hold off against the Danes and retake London that allowed him to be accepted as general overlord of all non-danish England.(10)
King Alfred was a successful leader in political affairs as well. He was known for being a man for the rule of law and revised the law code of his lands. He used sources such as the biblical book of Exodus and the code of King Aethelbert to bring about a new system in the courts. He was also known for looking to help the poor. (4)
Though he was a revered leader, he never let go of his love of learning. In fact, he saw the Danish invasion as God’s punishment of the English lack of learning and general ungodliness. He championed education in England. All young free-men were required to learn English, he learned and translated many texts from Latin, he invited many and various learned people to his court to foster more learning, and some of his texts became standard among usage of priest in England.(5)
King Alfred was well liked and well remembered. He was one of very few kings to have a full biography made about him. He was known for being a man who had his heart set on heavenly things. As he said when discussing why he took part in certain translations, it was “that in the midst of earthly troubles he might sometimes think of heavenly things.” (6). This was so much a standard of Alfred, that he is also known for trying to reinvigorate the monasteries. (7)
Overall Alfred was a man known for his diligence in warfare, ingenuity in problem solving, care for the affairs of his people, love of God, and love of knowledge. He is remembered as one of the great kings, and his example shaped what people considered a good king to be for centuries to come. (8)
(1) Britannica Academic, s.v. “Alfred,” http://academic.eb.com/levels/collegiate/article/Alfred/5679
(9) Britannica Academic, s.v. “Wessex,”http://academic.eb.com/levels/collegiate/article/Wessex/76582.
(10) Ibid “Wessex”
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