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Alfred the Great 849 – 26 October 899
Alfred the Great was the unique historic figure. He reorganized English army, created fleet, administration, made the significant contribution to English history. He was the only one from English governors who carried the title the Great. In 871 he was proclaimed as king. Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself «King of the Anglo-Saxons».
Alfred successfully defended his kingdom against the Vikings and by the time of his death had become the dominant ruler in England. Alfred had a reputation as a learned and merciful man who encouraged education.
To 875 he had considerable fleet which managed to inflict some defeats over Danes. Alfred creation of the fleet and achieved in it such progress that coast of his kingdom ceased to be exposed to attacks of Vikings. The king Alfred used five years of a truce with Danes for creation of his own fleet. Danes actively used fleet for unexpected attacks from the sea and evaded from battles on the open district. Alfred secretly began constructions of a large number of the ships on the rivers.
The king Alfred restored a public order in the kingdom. He putted royal court above all other courts. Alfred made the first collection of national laws («The Dooms of King Alfred the Great»), had ordered to state in Anglo-Saxon language laws of various Saxon kings, selected the most suitable. Now any violation of laws was considered by judges as an insult of majesty. He ordered administration, restored ancient division into counties and communities, and determined counts and judges of worthy people.
Alfred established a court school for the education of his own children, those of the nobility, and «a good many of lesser birth». There they studied books in both English and Latin and «devoted themselves to writing, to such an extent .... they were seen to be devoted and intelligent students of the liberal arts.» He recruited scholars from the Continent and from Britain to aid in the revival of Christian learning in Wessex .
King Alfred decided to make English, not Latin, the language of education and literature, So at the age of forty he learnt Latin and began translating books into Old English. Later he had translated other books into Old English. One of these was Historia Ecclesiastical Gentis Anglorum ( the history of the English church and people), which had been written in about 731 by a monk in Northumbria called Bede.
Fun Facts To test if a person was guilty of a crime, they had to hold a red-hot iron! If their hand healed quickly, they were innocent. If not, they were guilty. Alfred's ships were bigger than Viking ships, with 60 oars. When the Viking chief Guthrum was baptized a Christian, Alfred was his godfather. From Alfred's burh (a fortified town) comes our word 'borough‘. The Anglo-Saxons knew the Earth was round, but wrongly believed the Sun and stars went round the Earth.
Why was Alfred so great? Alfred was the only king in British history to be called ‘the great’ and he was born in AD849 and died in AD899. His father was king of Wessex, but Alfred became king of all England. He fought the Vikings, and then made peace so that English and Vikings settled down to live together. He encouraged people to learn and he tried to govern well and fairly.
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