ALFRED THE GREAT
Alfred the Great (848/9 – 26 October 899) was king of the West Saxons 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. Three of Alfred’s brothers, Æthelbald, Æthelberht and Æthelred, reigned in turn before him.
After ascending the throne, Alfred spent several years fighting 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 the Danelaw in the North of England. Alfred also oversaw the conversion of Viking leader Guthrum to Christianity. He defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, becoming the dominant ruler in England. 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 Old English rather than Latin and improving the legal system and military structure and his people’s quality of life. He was given the epithet “the Great” during and after the Reformation in the 16th century, and together with Danish Cnut the Great, is the only king of England to be given such a name.