Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Alfred or AElfred, the Great, the youngest son of Ethelwulf, King of Wessex. He went to Rome, it is said, as a child, and was not only blessed but anointed by Pope Leo IV. He served his brother Ethelred gallantly in the field against the Danes, winning at Ashdown in Berkshire the battle which is yet commemorated by the White Horse. When Ethelred died in 871, he succeeded to the throne. For a few years there was a respite from invasion, but in 874 Guthrum appeared again in the North, and settled down in East Anglia, preparing for a new onslaught. In 876 a Danish fleet attacked Wareham, and ultimately seized Exeter. They were hemmed in by Alfred and surrendered in 877. Next winter, however, reinforced by fresh hordes, they set out from Chippenham, and, other forces co-operating from east and south, completely surrounded Alfred and compelled him to take refuge in the Island of Athelney among the Somerset marshes. It is to this period of exile that the story of the burnt cakes belongs. In the course of a few months the king had gathered a large enough force, and early in the summer he fell upon the Danish camp at Eddington near Westbury, inflicting such a loss as to compel Guthrum to conclude the Peace of Wedmore. Ten years of tranquillity followed. Alfred codified the laws of Egbert, Offa, and Ini, tempering them with notions of justice derived from the Mosaic Scriptures and the Gospel. He established many schools, the chief being at Shaftesbury, Athelney, and perhaps Oxford. Men of learning and piety were invited from France and entrusted with educational posts. He himself took in hand the translation into the popular tongue of the De Consolatione of Boethius, The History of the World by Orosius, Gregory's Pastoral, and Bede's History of the Church, and he introduced into these works not a few sensible comments and expositions of his own. His works may be regarded as laying the foundation of English prose literature. In 892 war interrupted these peaceful pursuits. Whilst a large Danish fleet attacked the Kentish coast at Lympne, Hastings made a dash at the Thames. Ethelred, Alderman of Mercia, routed the invaders at Benfleet and drove them up the valleys of the Thames and Severn into Wales, whilst Alfred defeated another force at Exeter. In the following year Hastings again appeared on the Lea, but Alfred drained off the water, left his ships high and dry, and forced him to retire from the kingdom. Four quiet years ensued, but Alfred's health gave way, and he died in 901 at the age of fifty three.