As a result of being the only Anglo-Saxon king to have a contemporary biography, he has been sometimes handed the credit by later writers for everything of note that happened in the Anglo-Saxon period. Alfred did not invent Anglo-Saxon law or the navy, though he did write laws and design ships.
There was also an element of luck in his survival at the beginning of his reign, and in the fact that the Vikings were more interested in eastern England that was closer to their homelands. Mercian involvement was crucial to his success in defeating the Vikings in the s. Alfred does seem to have been a rather exceptional ruler, but it seems to have been a case of the right person in the right place at the right time. A: Alfred died on 26 October The exact circumstances and the place of his death are not known. It seems to have been intended as a burial place for the new dynasty of English kings founded by Alfred.
The bodies of Alfred and Ealhswith were transferred to New Minster, to be joined eventually by Edward himself and other members of the royal family. Edward continued and developed the policies of his father, and used the idea of garrisoned, fortified centres offensively against Viking-settled areas of eastern England. A: In the monks of New Minster relocated to the suburb of Hyde in the north of Winchester, because of the cramped conditions in the centre, and took with them the bodies of Alfred, Edward and Ealhswith, which were laid in honoured positions in front of the High Altar.
It was thought that their bodies had been lost when the site was dug up for a prison in the late 18th century. In the 19th century an amateur historian claimed he had dug up their bones, but no one locally believed him, and it appears that he had in any case been digging in the wrong part of the site. Radio-carbon testing for the recent BBC Two programme established once and for all that they were later medieval in date. However, Dr Katie Tucker, the osteoarchaeologist from the University of Winchester who led investigations, checked whether there might be other human bones of interest from the previous excavations at Hyde Abbey.
Part of a male pelvis found near the High Altar produced a radio-carbon date centring on the 10th century, thus raising the possibility that it could be part of the body of either Alfred or his son, Edward. This leaves us with the exciting possibility that further remains of them might be recovered.
Asser provides no physical descriptions of either Alfred or Edward, so the thought that we might one day be able to rediscover their appearance and give them a proper reburial is an enticing prospect. Barbara Yorke is professor emerita of early medieval history at the University of Winchester, from which she has recently retired after a long career. Her research interests lie with early medieval British history, with special interests in kingship, conversion, Wessex, women, religion and 19th-century Anglo-Saxonism.
Who was King Alfred the Great? November 23, at am. Right os coxa part of the pelvis of an older adult male from the latest antiquarian pit at the site of the High Altar, Hyde Abbey. Photo University of Winchester.
Following the success of the Richard III excavation, is it time to dig up other famous skeletons? The teashop empire. Second World War. General Modern. Plus, how old is too old?
Try our range of BBC bestselling history magazines today! Outside Anglo-Saxon England, to the north of Britain, the Vikings took over and settled Iceland, the Faroes and Orkney, becoming farmers and fishermen, and sometimes going on summer trading or raiding voyages. Orkney became powerful, and from there the Earls of Orkney ruled most of Scotland.
To this day, especially on the north-east coast, many Scots still bear Viking names. To the west of Britain, the Isle of Man became a Viking kingdom.
After acceding to the throne. Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from to c. and King of the Anglo-Saxons from c. He defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, becoming the dominant ruler in England. Bishop Asser tells the story of how, as a child, Alfred won a book of Saxon poems, offered as a prize by his mother to.
In Ireland, the Vikings raided around the coasts and up the rivers. They founded the cities of Dublin, Cork and Limerick as Viking strongholds. In they captured modern York Viking name: Jorvik and made it their capital. They continued to press south and west. King Alfred ruled from and after many trials and tribulations including the famous story of the burning of the cakes! After the battle the Viking leader Guthrum converted to Christianity. In Alfred took London from the Vikings and fortified it.
The same year he signed a treaty with Guthrum.
The treaty partitioned England between Vikings and English. The Viking territory became known as the Danelaw. It comprised the north-west, the north-east and east of England.
Here, people would be subject to Danish laws. Alfred became king of the rest. Alfred's grandson, Athelstan, became the first true King of England. He led an English victory over the Vikings at the Battle of Brunaburh in , and his kingdom for the first time included the Danelaw. In , Eirik Bloodaxe, the last Viking king of York, was killed and his kingdom was taken over by English earls. See Egils Saga. However, the Viking raiding did not stop — different Viking bands made regular raiding voyages around the coasts of Britain for over years after So the Vikings were not permanently defeated — England was to have four Viking kings between and The greatest of these was King Cnut, who was king of Denmark as well as of England.
A Christian, he did not force the English to obey Danish law; instead he recognised Anglo-Saxon law and customs. He worked to create a north Atlantic empire that united Scandinavia and Britain. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 39, and his sons had short, troubled reigns. His battle banner was called Land-waster. The English king, Harold Godwinson, marched north with his army and defeated Hardrada in a long and bloody battle.
Oxford: osprey Publishing. After the signing of the treaty with Guthrum, Alfred was spared any large-scale conflicts for some time. Finally, the same study suggests that the flow of Anglo-Saxon immigration must have been so massive that they came to consist of up to 40 per cent of the population in England at the time. The Royal Tombs of Great Britain. The consequences can be fatal, as seen in Myanmar. In addition to building well-defended settlements in his kingdom, Alfred also reorganized his army and maintained good diplomatic relations with both the Mercians and Welsh.
The English had repelled the last invasion from Scandinavia. However, immediately after the battle, King Harold heard that William of Normandy had landed in Kent with yet another invading army. With no time to rest, Harold's army marched swiftly back south to meet this new threat. At the end of a long day's fighting the Normans had won, King Harold was dead, and William was the new king of England. The irony is that William was of Viking descent: his great-great-great-grandfather Rollo was a Viking who in had invaded Normandy in northern France.