On This Day

Alfred the Great

King of the Anglo-Saxons and King of Wessex Alfred the Great

Profession: King of the Anglo-Saxons and King of Wessex


Biography: Alfred the Great reigned first as the King of the West Saxons from April 23, 871, until around 886, when he became the King of the Anglo-Saxons. Although he wasn't the first to style himself in this way, his descendants were the first unbroken line (the House of Wessex) to rule all of England.

Alfred is considered one of the great English kings. He is remembered for having repelled the Viking invasion of the Great Heathen Army at the Battle of Edington in 878. He prevented a total Viking conquest of England and reached an agreement whereby 'Danelaw' was established in northern England and the rest of Wessex and its dependencies retained independence. Under this treaty, the Viking leader Guthrum also converted to Christianity.

In addition to his military successes, Alfred championed education, and insisted that schooling be done in English rather than Latin, and greatly improved his kingdom's legal and military structure. He was respected by his subjects for having improved their quality of life and for being a level-headed and merciful ruler.

In 2002 he was ranked number 14 in a poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.

Birthplace: Wantage, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), Kingdom of Wessex

Died: October 26, 900

Historical Events

  • 0871-01-08 Battle of Ashdown: Ethelred I of Wessex and his brother Alfred the Great beat invading Danish army
  • 0878-05-06 Battle of Edington: Alfred the Great and his West Saxon army defeat Viking army of Guthrum the Old [earliest possible date]

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