“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten”
and how right was he.
The retelling of the tale of Alfred's stint in a Somerset kitchen has kept him alive in our collective memories for over one thousand and nine hundred years. Alfred was, as Edward Freeman, English historian calls him
"the most perfect character in history’
Alfred is an English hero, who in my opinion, is a match for Henry V and outshines Richard I by miles.
England had been over run by the dreaded Vikings, they had taken Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia, only Alfred's
Wessex was left. Alfred's battle at Edington in 879, fought on the side of a double ditched iron age hill fort, against an uncoordinated band of Vikings under its leader Guthrum, is not often remembered. Forgotten too is that he persuaded
Guthrum to convert to Christianity. Alfred's control of these marauding Vikings paved the way for the future unity of England.
As time as passed, Alfred's popularity has waxed and waned. Over the centuries he has had to do battle with the cult of
King Arthur, whose was much loved by the Tudor King Henry VII and the Victorians. Alfred was popular during the French Wars, the opera Alfred, by Thomas Arne is about him. The opera famously ended in Rule Britannia, which is
exactly what Alfred did.
Alfred the Great is not remembered for anything specific, he is remembered for his fairness and his military achievements, great achievements that lead to a kingdom being able to develop it own national identity.
King Alfred the Great died on the 26th October 899, at the age of about 50.